My journey to Tbaytel Tamarack House

Kate Cook
Kate Cook, Former Patient and Tbaytel Tamarack House resident

Imagine the horror of being told you have cancer. Try to understand the panic that takes hold, knowing that you have to fight this horrible disease while being treated far away from your family, friends, community and home. Where do you stay? Who do you turn to for support and help? How do you afford it? For us, the answer was Tbaytel Tamarack House.

I took the bus to the Tbaytel Tamarack house. Not the traditional kind of bus, like the Greyhound or a school bus, but what we in our family lovingly refer to as the “booby bus”. I got on the Screen for Life bus in Dryden, ON on April 9th, 2017 for my first mammogram. I wasn’t nervous to have a mammogram; it was just a “coming of age” screening and I have no history of breast cancer in my family. However, less than a week after my initial mammogram I was scheduled for more tests. It turned out I had a lump and the biopsy revealed that it was breast cancer. To say I was shocked would be an understatement.

After my pre-op appointment, my husband Jeff and I rode up to the 5th floor of the Medical Centre building of Thunder Bay Region Health Sciences Centre. We were greeted and given a tour of the Tbaytel Tamarack House by a lovely woman named Alexis, the Tbaytel Tamarack House attendant. We were immediately impressed with the comfortable accommodations and spacious and well equipped kitchen. The common areas where sunny and bright. It offers all the comforts of home.

Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre is the only hospital that provides radiation treatment in Northwestern Ontario. This means that everyone living outside of Thunder Bay must travel for treatment. Some of us are lucky enough to have our spouses and/or family with us, others are there by themselves, but everyone is greeted with a friendly smile, a warm touch or hug, and that really does make all the difference. The care we were provided was second to none.

My surgery was scheduled for May 16th, 2017 and this would be our first night stay at Tbaytel Tamarack. We called ahead to book our room and when we arrived we were welcomed warmly, given a beautiful room and settled in for the night. My surgery was successful and the summer came and went while I recovered. Fortunately, I did not need to have chemotherapy and was scheduled to start radiation therapy on August 21st, 2017. This is when our extended stay at Tbaytel Tamarack House began.

Radiation treatments started and for the next three weeks, the treatment became just a small part of my day. The larger part was taken up chatting with my new friends; we laughed while playing bingo together and got a little competitive during group games. We enjoyed “Still Me”, movie nights and meals as if we were sitting down with our families.

Call us survivors, friends or family. Whatever we are to each other we have been changed by our stay on floor number five at Tbaytel Tamarack House, where you arrive as a cancer patient and leave as part of a new support group. I hope I can return one day, not as a cancer patient, but to visit with some old friends.