cutting ribbon
​​​Cutting the ribbon to officially reopen the Princess Margaret Lodge, (L to R), Marnie Escaf, UHN Vice President Clinical; Slobodanka Antic, Clinical Manager of the Princess Margaret Lodge; Dr. Kevin Smith, UHN President & CEO; Dr. Miyo Yamashita, President & CEO at The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation; Dr. Keith Stewart, Vice President Cancer, UHN, and Medical Director of Princess Margaret Cancer Centre; Ian McDermott, Executive Director, Redevelopment and Chief Planning Officer of UHN FM-PRO; Colleen Dickie, Director of Operations, UHN Radiation Medicine Program. (Photo: UHN)​

After four years of closure for complex renovations and 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 Greater Toronto Area 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 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 – located on Jarvis St., a short distance from Prince​ss Margaret Cancer Centre – 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," says Dr. Miyo Yamashita, President & CEO of The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation. "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."

"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 reopening after an extensive renovation, infrastructure improvements and amenity upgrades. (Photo: UHN)

But the Lodge is more than just high-quality living accommodations.

According to the Lodge's Clinical Manager Slobodanka Antic, it has been a source of healing and community for every patient who has stepped foot in the building since she started working there 11 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, Slobodanka says.

"As a family member or friend, you can only try to understand and be there to support a loved one with cancer," she 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."

That sentiment resonates with Sandy Bolyki.

A leukemia nurse at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre for almost 30 years, she always appreciated how the Lodge helped patients access world-class care that would have otherwise 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)

And, when Sandy 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, allowing her to focus on her health. She found solace in the music and crafts at the Lodge, 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 a more comfortable home away from home, and that it will continue to help hundreds of patients each year," says Sandy, who will be five years post-treatment in June 2024.

"I am so grateful to the Princess Margaret Lodge," she says.

"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, UHN'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)

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