By Vicki Bissillion
When Verne and his wife Alana first entered the Canadian Cancer Society’s Southern Interior Rotary Lodge in Kelowna, the couple from “Smalltown, B.C.” tried to hide their stress of their visit behind brave, shaky smiles and a bit of humour.
“Is this the Honeymoon Hotel?” Verne asked the volunteer at reception, doing his best to lighten the mood.
The front desk volunteers smiled and greeted the couple warmly. The Lodge had a relaxed, warm ambiance that was readily apparent. Slowly some of their anxieties about this trip began to lift.
Verne and Alana were not travelling to Kelowna for a second honeymoon, they were staying in the lodge while Verne underwent daily radiation treatment at the cancer centre next doo,r for the next seven to eight weeks.
In the first few weeks of their stay, even though Verne’s treatment often left him feeling nauseated and weak, the couple met many of the other residents and the group began sharing stories and fears about their cancer journey. With camaraderie and empathy they helped each other—whether patient or spouse—through this surreal time in their lives.
“We were all so scared sometimes. We hugged and cried together, laughed and shopped together,” says Verne. “We bonded; there was usually someone worse off.”
The group’s connection was so deep that 17 of them have kept in touch by phone and email and are even planning a reunion to compare stories and share medical successes in early 2015.
Every year, for thousands of people just like Verne and Alana, the Canadian Cancer Society’s lodges (there are four in B.C.—Kelowna, Prince George, Vancouver and Victoria) are an affordable, safe and secure home away from home while undergoing cancer treatment.
There are a range of amenities and services including nutritious meals, Wi-Fi as well as easy access to other Canadian Cancer Society support programs, such as CancerConnection or the wig and breast prosthesis bank.
And, most importantly, the society staff and volunteers are committed to ensuring everyone feels welcome and comfortable.
“We are so grateful to all the staff and volunteers. We consider them part of our treatment’s success,” say Verne and Alana. “They helped us and all of the residents here through this ordeal. We know if we ever have to revisit the cancer clinic, there is a special sanctuary here at the lodge.”
Volunteers are always needed at the lodge—especially in the winter months. Roles include front desk greeter, answering phones, doing tours and socializing with residents. The work is rewarding and a great way to give back and help people like Verne and Alana as they face cancer.
To learn more about how you can help out, contact 250-712-2203 or drop by at CCS Rotary Lodge, at 2251 Abbott St. in Kelowna.