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Home away from home: Kelowna lodge provides accommodation to 1,300 cancer patients every year

The Southern Interior Rotary Lodge in Kelowna not only offers cancer patients a place to stay while getting treatment but also offers much needed peer support
It’s a difficult diagnosis to receive: cancer. For some, the fight also includes having to travel hundreds of kilometres for treatment. However, the Southern Interior Rotary Lodge in Kelowna helps hundreds of people cope with it all. Klaudia Van Emmerik with part one of a four-part series about the Canadian Cancer Society's cancer lodge and everything it has to offer.

It’s a place that strives to provide similar comforts of home to hundreds of cancer patients every year.

“To have this place here, it’s wonderful and a blessing really,” said Diane Ogden.

Diagnosed with breast cancer last summer, Ogden is referring to the Southern Interior Rotary Lodge in Kelowna.

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The lodge, operated by the Canadian Cancer Society, provides a place to stay for patients who have to come to Kelowna for cancer treatment.

Ogden lives in Ashcroft, near Kamloops, and requires a four-week stay in Kelowna to undergo radiation.

“Sixteen treatments of radiation, so it’s every day Monday to Friday,” she told Global News.

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During her four weeks of radiation, Ogden is staying at the lodge.

“I can’t imagine staying in a motel or being alone,” she said. “If I had to stay in a motel, by myself or wherever, that could get pretty depressing, I think.”

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Ogden is one of about 1,300 patients that stay at the lodge every year.

“They come from all over the Interior, 100 Mile House to Cranbrook, Fernie area, even more north,” said Philip Jansen, manager at the Southern Interior Rotary Lodge.

The 35-bed lodge is located behind Kelowna General Hospital, and is just steps away from the cancer clinic.

It was built in 1998 and coincided with the opening of the adjacent cancer clinic.

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“We knew that if you build a clinic, you need also a place where people can stay, if they come from out of town,” Jansen said.

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The $5 million project was funded through community donations, with a $1.2 dollar contribution from local Rotary clubs.

In addition to 19 shared and private rooms, the two-storey building features a common room, a dining area and laundry facilities.

“We want to create that home away from home,” Jansen said.

While providing cozy and comfortable accommodation is one thing, the lodge also offers a number of programs and activities to help people relax during what can be a stressful time.

“When I first came in this building, I was so impressed by the laughter I hear around me,” Jansen said. “How much joy there is during their treatment and for me, it definitely reflects that life is bigger than cancer.”

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Patients at the lodge are often seen mingling and leaning on one another for support.

“Everybody has that same thread, everybody has cancer here . . . it sort of bonds you together,” said Ogden.

“Some people get down, but then you have that other person who has a laugh and a smile and it brings you up again.”

Jansen said the bond often leads to lifelong friendships.

“They still meet years after and talk and chat and everything,” he said.

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The lodge depends on public donations to keep patient fees at a minimum.

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With some government funding and public donations, patients pay a nightly fee of $52, which includes all of the programs and three meals a day.

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