Wollongong Relay for Life funds helping those who travel for treatment

Place to stay: Hugh Barrett has stayed at Alkira Lodge for the past fortnight as his wife Pam undergoes treatment in Wollongong Hospital. Picture: Sylvia Liber
Place to stay: Hugh Barrett has stayed at Alkira Lodge for the past fortnight as his wife Pam undergoes treatment in Wollongong Hospital. Picture: Sylvia Liber

It’s like a second home for the many cancer patients and their carers who travel to Wollongong for treatment, and now Alkira Lodge is getting a much-needed makeover.

Funds raised through Wollongong Relay for Life have seen the start of works, with renovations to the exterior plus a new bathroom and office already completed.

Proceeds from this weekend’s Relay event at Beaton Park, Gwynneville, will see additional upgrades including a new kitchen and refurbished bedrooms.

Cancer Council NSW spokeswoman Caitlyn Zalewski said they’d teamed up with Illawarra Cancer Services at Wollongong Hospital for the upgrade.

“Cancer Council is committed to ensuring any cancer patient and carer required to travel for treatment is able to access affordable accommodation,” she said.

“This partnership not only allows us to provide a more comfortable environment for people to stay, but also enables us to provide a full-time staff member to give them access to information and support.”

The district’s co-director of cancer services, Nicola Ryan, said the partnership helped alleviate some of the stress for patients and carers.

“We want them to feel at home, to feel comfortable, relaxed and safe,” she said. “We know those who stay a while tend to make friends and look out for each other – as they have some understanding of what each other is going through.”

She said if space allowed at the nine-bedroom lodge, patients and carers from other wards could utilise the affordable accommodation.

For instance this week, Ulladulla resident Hugh Barrett was able to stay and be close to his wife Pam who was struck down by meningitis a fortnight ago.

“One minute she had a headache, the next she couldn’t walk to talk,” he said. “She was transferred so quickly from Milton to Shoalhaven to Wollongong Hospital, I didn’t even have time to pack.

“To get somewhere to stay so close to the hospital has been fantastic, and because of the quick diagnosis and treatment she’s ready to get out of hospital.”

Around 700 people have registered for this weekend’s Wollongong Relay for Life. Details at www.relayforlife.com.au

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