April 25, 2016 7:00 am
Updated: April 26, 2016 3:46 pm

Canadian Cancer Society Lodges offer a home-away-from-home for families fighting cancer


Spending time in a nice hotel in a beautiful city like Vancouver is great when you are on vacation, but if you are a cancer patient far from home, it’s not a place you want to be.

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“Can you imagine if you’re sick or a caregiver like me and you’re in a hotel or even a bed and breakfast where no one else around you has any understanding at all about what you’re going through?” asked Sue who had to temporarily relocate with her partner to Vancouver from their home in a small community on Vancouver Island so he could undergo treatment for leukemia.

They came to Vancouver in early December so Sue’s partner could undergo chemotherapy. Because it was a four-hour trip back home, they had to remain in the city. That’s when a social worker told them about the Canadian Cancer Society’s Jean C. Barber Lodge, a home-away-from-home in Vancouver for cancer patients undergoing outpatient treatment at the BC Cancer Agency..

The Society operates three other lodges in B.C., including ones in Kelowna, Prince George and Victoria. The lodges offer affordable accommodation for people who have to come from smaller centres in order to receive cancer treatment. Patients can stay a day or two or for many months depending on their situations.

“One benefit of our lodges is that they’re very close to treatment centres,” said Leanne Morgan, Support Programs Director for the Canadian Cancer Society. “People are in an environment where there are others who are also going through cancer treatment so they don’t feel alone. It’s a supportive environment with our 24-hour staff. Meals are included and we try to make it as homey as possible.”

Sue and her partner moved into the lodge in early December and were happy with their decision: “I only had to concentrate on him and never mind anything else. Everything was there. The beds were there. The food was there. The TV was there. The people were awesome. They showed you around. They made sure you were comfortable. I cannot say enough about the lodge.”

That belief was reinforced when they had to relocate to a hotel during Christmas when the lodge shut down for two weeks. During that time, Sue’s partner was suffering from terrible nausea from his second round of chemotherapy. He was sensitive to light, noise and motion.

“We were now at a hotel and had to commute to the hospital for treatment and he was very sick and vomiting constantly,” Sue recalled. “Christmas passed and we went back to the lodge. Oh, my God, how joyful was that!”

Sue prefers not to give her or her partner’s last name because they don’t want to broadcast their struggle to the world, but they do want to share their story to help other families affected by cancer and to spread the word about the Canadian Cancer Society’s lodges.

“If you have to be some place and go through this then the fact that you have someone there that you can talk to has an enormous bearing on things,” she said. “All you have to do is ask for somebody’s ear and you’ve got it.”

The lodges offer several activities and programs to help people who are staying there, but Sue says they don’t take advantage of too many of them because the chemo takes a lot out of her partner. He naps a lot, but when he has the energy, they like to take walks, make jigsaw puzzles and watch the news on TV.
Despite the pool tables and other amenities, what Sue says is most important about the lodge is the connections that they have made with other cancer patients during the four and a half months they have lived there. When they are having a bad day, other patients offer their support.

“The connections you make are ones you would never expect to have,” said Sue, who has met people from all over western Canada. “You would never run into these people ever in your life if you weren’t in this situation and it’s really, truly amazing.”

They continue to email back and forth with a number of people they have met there.

“Having people to talk to is such a blessing. After two stints in a hotel and knowing no one and having just you there, I would never have it any other way,” said Sue.

“I’ve donated to the Canadian Cancer Society for 25 years. I have never directed my donation to a particular area before, but from now on they will be designated to the Jean C Barber Lodge in Vancouver.”

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