Home away from home

Kordyban Lodge in Prince George is a peaceful oasis on many patient's cancer journey

Marilyn Heaton enjoys the bright and sunny room at Kordyban Lodge but hopes she never has to return for medical reasons. The hat which keeps her head warm and the quilt that covers her lap

The sun streams in through windows that reach from floor to soaring ceiling. Gentle piano music fills the hallways and common room. Those who enter are enveloped in an environment of calm and peacefulness. Canadian Cancer Society’s Kordyban Lodge is a home away from home for many northern cancer patients where compassionate and supportive staff and volunteers walk beside guests on their treatment journey.

For Marilyn Heaton, it was a short drive up from Quesnel but a world away from all that was familiar to her. After a September 2013 diagnosis of aggressive breast cancer, Marilyn stepped into a whirlwind round of treatments beginning with surgery and chemotherapy through the Quesnel hospital.

“I cried a lot but my doctor, Dr. Scheepers and my surgeon Dr. Jacobsen were really good,” she said.

She also praised the technology which allowed her to teleconference with her oncologist, thus avoiding dangerous wintertime travel.

Marilyn finished her chemo treatments Feb. 27 and was anticipating a 16-session round of radiation treatment at the cancer clinic in Prince George, however 16 days of fever laid her out flat.

“I was worn out before I even started the radiation treatments,” she said.

It was through the cancer clinic Marilyn heard about Kordyban Lodge. It was close to the hospital where she would receive her treatments and only cost $45/day which included three meals a day and a whole lot more.

The 60-year-old decided that was for her.

“It was so light and quiet,” she said.

“When I first arrived I couldn’t even climb the stairs I was so worn out from the fevers but the place was so welcoming. So many windows.”

Marilyn arrived on April 3 and, except for the Easter weekend when the lodge and cancer clinic were closed, she remained until her treatments finished on April 28.

“There’s so much going on here, entertainment, fashion shows, jigsaw puzzles everywhere, baskets of wool for those who want to knit and people who really care.”

For Marilyn the first few days were mainly devoted to treatments once a day and naps 2 – 3 times a day. But slowly she began to socialize with the other guests, finding comfort in others stories and sharing her own cancer journey.

“No one every seems grouchy, the staff and the sereness of the place just promotes healing,” she said.

“Even though I like the place, I don’t want to be coming back.”

Marilyn remarked how fortunate she is Kordyban Lodge exists.

“Its been what I needed.”

She is also very appreciative of the personal care and support. Marilyn treasures the handmade quilt, slippers and cap she was given. Just another way she feels enveloped by the many volunteer organizations that provide comforting support to Kordyban guests.

This cancer patient isn’t finished though, she must still endure five years of hormone therapy due to the type of breast cancer she has.

However, she credits her annual mammogram routine for catching her cancer.

“There was nothing on my mammogram in 2012, but then in 2013 it was there, the mammogram found my cancer.”

Steps away from the B.C. Cancer Agency clinic, Kordyban Lodge gives lodging preference to cancer patients and their families but if rooms are available, those requiring a room for other out-patient treatments can stay there.

Also located in Kordyban Lodge are Masonic services to patients such as transportation to appointments, pick up at the airport and other support as required.

Most special rooms and common areas bear a plaque naming the person either who donated the funds or in honour of someone who succumbed to cancer.

Everywhere within the lodge are reminders of the generosity of Prince George businesses and individuals as well as surrounding areas that helped make Kordyban Lodge a reality.

The lodge has 24-hour nursing staff and other support staff however the bulk of the work is carried out by dedicated volunteers.

Terry, a volunteer with Kordyban since it opened just over a year ago, said in a quiet voice, “If cancer patients or their families need support, Kordyban Lodge is here for them.”

The doors to Kordyban Lodge are always open and anyone can stop by and see the great facility and services available.

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