There were few dry eyes in the room on Friday afternoon when Mary Kordyban stood up at the podium in the Canadian Cancer Society building that bears her family's name.
"This lodge with familiar surroundings, will be a peaceful place of comfort, hope and compassion," Kordyban told the assembled crowd. "[It will provide] affordable accommodation for people on a cancer healing journey."
The Kordyban Lodge will begin accepting guests on Monday, providing patients with an affordable place to stay right next door to the BC Cancer Agency Centre for the North. The Mary Kordyban Foundation's $2 million donation was the genesis for the $10 million facility which includes 36 beds, full meal service, a handful of lounges and massage therapy room.
Cancer survivor Elaine Comish knows first hand what having a lodge will mean to cancer can mean to a patient. In 2010, the Prince George resident spent weeks at a time in the Jean C. Barber Lounge in Vancouver while receiving her cancer treatment and will be staying there again when she goes back for follow-up treatment for her rare form of the disease.
"I can't even imagine not having the lodge. The people in it were just absolutely amazing," she said. "Without the lodge it probably would have bankrupted us to have to stay in a hotel room for that length of time."
Comish said she kept close tabs on the construction of the Prince George building and is looking forward to volunteering at the lodge once it starts welcoming patients next week. She's one of the more than 100 people who have signed up to work various jobs at the lodge.
"I'm hoping to be on the front desk," she said, adding she also plans to help with some of the administration of the facility.
Standing in one of the patient rooms sponsored by Northern Hardware and the Moffat family prior to the official festivities, Comish and Kordyban had a chance to meet with Premier Christy Clark.
Like most of the guest rooms, it features two twin beds, although some are equipped with queen-sized beds. Depending on occupancy levels, patients at the cancer centre could have a roommate, but Canadian Cancer Society regional director Margaret Jones-Bricker said every effort is made to match people with similar interests.
"Most people will end up coming with a caregiver - a friend or a spouse or a family member - occasionally someone will come on their own," she said.
Since radiation treatment is generally booked in blocks of about five weeks, guests will be staying at the lodge for up to a month and a half at a time. The cancer society charges $44 a night, but that includes full meals and access to all of the services.
By having a lodge in Prince George, northerners outside of Prince George will be able to stay closer to their families and perhaps even return home on weekends. Comish said having that kinds of support network can be invaluable for a patient dealing with the side effects of treatment.
Comish said the facilities in Prince George compare very favourably to what she experienced in Vancouver. All the activity and recreation rooms will provide guests with plenty of options of how to spend their time between treatments.
The impetuous for the building, according to Prince George-Mackenzie MLA Pat Bell, goes back to 2004 when he was meeting with his Liberal caucus colleague Shirley Bond and his Prince George constituency office. The pair had a meeting with the Kordyban family and Bell recalls Mary Kordyban telling the politicians that if the province were to build a full cancer centre with radiation capability, her foundation would be willing to contribute $2 million to what would become the Kordyban Lodge.
In her speech Kordyban called the lodge the final piece in the Northern Cancer Control Strategy while Bond described the 25,000 square foot building as "the house that love and northern generosity built."
In addition to Kordyban's donation, the province kicked in $2 million, while the Novak Family Foundation and West Fraser Timber both contributed $1 million each to the cause.
"Today is a special day for all of us, filled with pride and joy for what has been accomplished for cancer care in the north," Kordyban said.