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‘Home-Away-From-Home’ Princess Margaret Lodge Reopens for Cancer Patients
Cutting the ribbon to officially reopen the Princess Margaret Lodge, (L to R), Marnie Escaf, Slobodanka Antic, Dr. Kevin Smith, Dr. Miyo Yamashita, Dr. Keith Stewart, Ian McDermott, and Colleen Dickie. (Photo: UHN)
After four years of closure for complex renovations, extensive infrastructure and amenity improvements, the Princess Margaret Lodge is re-opening for out-of-town cancer patients seeking care.

The Lodge, originally built in 1957, has been reinvented to provide a ‘home-away-from-home’ experience for individuals living outside the GTA who are attending appointments at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre or Sunnybrook Odette Cancer Centre. Thanks to the support of The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation, the building now has 120 beds, 63 bedrooms with individual bathrooms, all new windows, walls, ceilings, tiles, flooring, plumbing, electrical and mechanical equipment, plus Wi-Fi all throughout.

For $30 a day, residents receive three catered meals as part of their stay, as well as free shuttle bus service to their appointments. With a billiards room for entertainment, a wellness room for meditation and a fitness room for exercise, the Lodge is a modern hotel-like facility that can accommodate more patients than ever before, and provides a vital community of other cancer patients.

“In a city as expensive as Toronto, affordable lodging for cancer patients has never been more important. Last year, the average rate for hotel stays in downtown Toronto was $322 a night, reflecting a 10 to 11 per cent increase from 2022, with prices expected to rise a further 6.7 per cent this year, according to American Express Global Business Travel’s Hotel Monitor 2024. But thanks to support from our donors, the daily cost to stay at Princess Margaret Lodge is one-tenth (or less) of an average night’s hotel stay,” says Dr. Miyo Yamashita, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation.

“Ensuring people facing cancer feel supported throughout their entire journey is our top priority. The Lodge not only eases the burden of finding comfortable and affordable accommodations in Canada’s biggest and busiest city, but provides out-of-town patients with lodging they otherwise may not have been able to access.”
The Princess Margaret Lodge, which was built in 1957, is re-opening after an extensive renovation, infrastructure improvements and amenity upgrades. (Photo: UHN)
But the Lodge is more than just high-quality living accommodations.

According to Slobodanka Antic, clinical manager of the Princess Margaret Lodge, the Lodge has been a source of healing and community for every patient that has stepped foot in the building since she started eleven years ago.

“One of the biggest advantages of the Lodge is the opportunity for connection among patients – some of whom feel very isolated as they are dealing with cancer,” Slobodanka says.

While many patients have the support of their family or friends, more than half of the residents who come to the Lodge are completely alone. But what might at first seem like a daunting and isolating experience for patients transforms into connection with others that often last a lifetime, she says.

“As a family member or friend, you can only try to understand and be there to support a loved one with cancer,” Slobodanka says.

“But it’s not until patients see others going through the same thing that they really have someone to share this experience with and lean on.”

Sandy Bolyki, who has been a leukemia nurse at The Princess Margaret for almost 30 years, knows the feeling. She always appreciated how the Lodge helped her out-of-town cancer patients access world-class care that otherwise would have been out of their reach.

“For so many who couldn’t afford the cost of hotel rooms and meals, the Lodge eliminated that barrier,” Sandy says.

The newly renovated Princess Margaret Lodge has a billiards room for entertainment, a wellness room for meditation and a fitness room for exercise, and can accommodate more patients than ever before, and meet all of their diverse needs. (Photo: UHN)
But when she was later diagnosed with leukemia and needed an affordable place to stay, the Lodge was there for her, too.

“I never dreamed that I would need it, but it made a world of difference for me during my treatment,” Sandy says.

“The cancer journey can be a lonely, scary and overwhelming experience. The safety and comfort of the Lodge, along with the companionship of other patients, made treatment so much more manageable.”

Having a safe, comfortable space and shuttle access to Princess Margaret Cancer Centre took away the stress of the logistics and allowed her to focus on her health. She found solace in the music and crafts the Lodge provided, as well as the garden, the compassionate staff, and the fellow guests who supported her.

The Lodge also brought The Princess Margaret’s Look Good Feel Good Program directly to her when she needed it.

“I was so excited to learn that these significant renovations are making the Lodge more comfortable and a home-away-from-home, and that it will continue to help hundreds of patients each year,” Sandy says.

“I will be 5-years post-treatment in June 2024 and am so grateful to The Princess Margaret Lodge.”

“So many will benefit from the critical function provided by this cherished institution.”

Thank you to all the people involved who made this possible: The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation, The University Health Network’s FM-PRO Team, Colleen Dickie, Slobodanka Antic, Shireen Ali, Dmitry Kapustin, and Dr. Keith Stewart.
Residents receive three catered meals each day as part of their stay and free shuttle bus service to their appointments. (Photo: UHN)