A new house on Back Loop Road will be available to cancer patients coming from out of town who are receiving radiation treatment at Southeast Radiation Oncology Center. The bottom floor is designed specifically for the patients while the top half is a private residence of the anonymous owners.

A new house on Back Loop Road will be available to cancer patients coming from out of town who are receiving radiation treatment at Southeast Radiation Oncology Center. The bottom floor is designed specifically for the patients while the top half is a private residence of the anonymous owners.

New housing for cancer patients in Juneau

Cancer patients coming to Juneau for treatment now have an affordable housing option, thanks to anonymous donors.

A local couple purchased land off Mendenhall Loop Road about a year ago with the specific intent of building a house for cancer patients being treated at Southeast Radiation Oncology Center. Then, they designed and built it. Construction was just recently completed, and it’s now open for use.

“We are grateful to the homeowners for making this possible,” Eugene Huang, MD and medical director at SROC said of the home. “We’ve hoped that we could find an option like this since the day we opened our center two years ago. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate our second anniversary and to thank the community for their support of the center.”

The oncology center knows who the donors are but aren’t telling — the donors wish to remain completely anonymous to the public. The only thing the center’s employees could say to the Empire about them was that they recognized the need for affordable housing for cancer patients coming for treatment from out of town. That’s no small offering of a house with 2,593 square feet, and total property value of $239,600.

The donors built the house so they could still live on the home’s second floor apartment, which is separate from the rest of the house and reserved as a private residence with its own amenities. But downstairs on the first floor are two suites that will be available on a first-come, first-served basis to cancer patients visiting the center.

It’s a service that’s badly needed.

“Patients who travel to Juneau for radiation treatments are often here for several weeks,” Huang said. “We are grateful that many local hotels have offered discounts to our patients for long-term stays, but even with the discount those bills can still be too much of a burden for many patients. Now we’ll have another option.”

Southeast Alaska cancer patients had previously had to travel to Anchorage or Seattle for radiation treatment, but received a local option when SROC opened in 2013. Even still, housing costs during treatments are expensive.

Radiation therapist at SROC Alex Gonnsen gave a tour of the house to the Empire Wednesday.

Atop a hill near scenic Montana Creek, the house has privacy for patients but is also conveniently located off the main road and near a bus stop.

A person walks in to a communal living room area and an open, fully equipped kitchen, all of which looks like it came from the pages of an interior décor magazine. Down the hall past the washer and dryer are two separate, spacious bedrooms. Each includes a bed, a sofa with a pullout bed for patients traveling with family, a dresser, a mini-kitchen and a door leading to an outdoor sitting area. Additionally, two bathrooms were designed so if more than one patient stayed, they could have their own — each with a walk-in shower stall or a bathtub.

Gonnsen said SROC has seen patients from almost every Southeast Alaska community. On average, they have at least one patient a month traveling from out of town, although some months it’s two to three. Occasionally, it’s none.

“Typically most patients come from Juneau since it is the largest area in Southeast Alaska,” Gonnsen said. He added that people coming from out of town for treatment sometimes have family or friends they stay with, but don’t because they don’t want to be burden. Others don’t have family to stay with and stay in a hotel.

Gonnsen echoed Huang, saying that local hotels have worked with patients in the past in arranging for discounts, but depending on the season of their stay or the patient’s insurance, the cost can fluctuate. With treatment periods lasting anywhere from two to eight weeks, the cost can become exceedingly burdensome.

At the new house, patients only pay a nominal fee based on a sliding scale depending on a person’s individual circumstances. Gonnsen said the owners of the house indicated that they thought most patients would want to give back and not stay for free, but the amount a person paid would be well within their financial ability.

If cancer patients are traveling to Juneau for treatment and need housing, all they have to do is contact Southeast Radiation Oncology Center to discuss staying at the house, and can do so by calling (907) 586-5777.

• Contact Clara Miller at 523-2243 or at clara.miller@juneauempire.com.

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