The Walleye Magazine

Tbaytel Tamarack House is a Home Away from Home for Northweste­rn Ontario Residents

Meet Fort Frances Residents Lorne and Sandra McNay

- By Janine Chiasson

Unfortunat­ely, when regional patients and families require medical treatment for more than five consecutiv­e days away from home, the Northern Health Travel Grant falls short. That’s why Tbaytel Tamarack House exists, to be a true haven in every way – physically, emotionall­y, and financiall­y.

When Fort Frances resident Lorne McNay was diagnosed with oral cancer in summer 2021, “my family doctor said ‘you’ve got to go to Thunder Bay,’” he recounts. “Surgery was not an option for me, and I was scheduled for 5 weeks of radiation therapy and many rounds of chemo.” Lorne was already familiar with Tbaytel Tamarack House from an earlier stay, and through articles in the town newspaper.

Lorne and Sandra arrived in Thunder Bay in early June, didn’t leave until the end of July, and can’t say enough good things about Tbaytel Tamarack House. Located on the top floor of the Medical Centre, right beside Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, “it was like having a home away from home,” Lorne says. “You’re literally 5 minutes away from your appointmen­ts, you just walk over there, do your thing, and walk back to your room.” Sandra loved the welcoming tour, their comfortabl­e room, a spot in the fridge and cupboards, laundry facilities, a gym, and the chance to meet other guests, play cards and games, and share their stories over meals together.

Even though Lorne and Sandra were very well accommodat­ed, Sandra says, “it was hard to watch as he went from being my Dad having supper with me to no longer being able to eat, no longer being able to swallow, having a feeding tube, having hydration through an IV, and spending a lot of time sleeping.” At one point, when Lorne spent 8 days in hospital and they thought they’d lose him, Sandra realized, “life is precious and those weeks at Tamarack House gave me time with my Dad that I wouldn’t otherwise have had. I didn’t have the means or the stamina to stay in a hotel, I couldn’t have done it – Tbaytel Tamarack House was a life saver for us.” Residents are only charged a fee equal to the amount of their Northern Health Travel Grant so there are no out-of-pocket expenses for their stay at Tamarack House.

A couple of weeks into treatment, Sandra, seeing all the expenses at Tbaytel Tamarack House that she knew couldn’t possibly be covered by fees, started a fundraiser. Already active selling Tiber River Naturals online, Sandra used her products to raise $2,374 which she donated to the Northern Cancer Fund, specifical­ly earmarked for Tbaytel Tamarack House. Lorne got a recognitio­n leaf with his name on it, and when it was placed in the Tamarack Tree, Sandra admits, “it was pretty emotional.”

Sandra is thankful that Tbaytel supported Tamarack House right from the beginning. “I often wonder how Tbaytel Tamarack House survives – they have staff, there’s upkeep – and I think it’s amazing that Tbaytel is committed to supporting the people in our region.” She encourages others to find ways to give, knowing how important Tbaytel Tamarack House was for her and her Dad.

“If you had to go alone it would be terrible,” Lorne says. “Sandra did all my phoning, my appointmen­ts, she was up on everything.”

Sandra is also a nurse and staying with her Dad throughout his treatment was a huge relief for both of them. “Like when he needed hydration, I was able to help him with that,” Sandra says. “On the positive side, every day after radiation treatment we’d high five each other and countdown until that final day when we rang the bell and we were done.”

Sandra and Lorne know firsthand how tough and scary a medical journey can be, and with cancer on the rise, they want people to know that Tbaytel Tamarack House is there for them: a comfortabl­e, supportive, convenient, and affordable haven in Thunder Bay.

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