Posted on Sunday 1 September 2019

in News

“It’s taken all of our savings” – families of young cancer patients travelling hundreds of miles for treatment share their stories for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

To mark September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month (CCAM), CLIC Sargent is sharing the stories of young cancer patients from across the UK who are travelling many miles to the hospital for essential, life-saving treatment in the hope to raise vital funds and awareness.

Gabrielle and Judith Irving, who faced a 180 mile round-trip for Gabrielle's cancer treatment

Last year, CLIC Sargent research revealed that young cancer patients travel twice as far as adults for treatment [1]. These young people have to travel to specialist centres across the UK for treatment as it is often the case that these cannot be offered at their local hospital.

Families are facing an average round-trip of 60 miles to get to and from hospital for treatment, spending at least £180 a month on travel when treatment is at its most intense. Other families are forced to pay out hundreds in taxi fares or public transport costs.

As well as getting to and from hospital, families face other added costs when a child is diagnosed with cancer, spending an average of £600 a month extra, on top of everyday expenses and bills [2]. The biggest expenses families face other than travel include food, hospital car parking, energy bills and car-related costs. These costs are hitting families at a time where parents may have had to give up work or cut their hours to be with their child.

One family affected by these issues is the Irving family, who found themselves many miles from home following a shock cancer diagnosis for their daughter Gabrielle, who was just three-years-old. The family, who live near Maryport in Cumbria, faced a 180 mile round trip to get to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle.

Judith, Gabrielle’s mum, told us that covering the cost of the journey to hospital took all of their savings.

She said: “You always had to have 180 miles worth of petrol in the car – always had at least half a tank. You can’t pre-book an MOT just in case you might need the car that day. You couldn’t send it for a service. You can’t plan ahead – otherwise, you just have to let people down. We always had to be well prepared. I’m so thankful we didn’t have any breakdowns. You need to know you can turn that key and it’ll get you there.”

Since CLIC Sargent called on the Government to create a Young Cancer Patient Travel Fund in September last year, another 4,450 young cancer patients and their families across the UK have spent around £5 million simply travelling to treatment.

Now CLIC Sargent is calling on the public to help raise vital funds to support families like the Irvings who are facing the costs of cancer. Here’s how you can get involved during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month:

  • Get your own specially designed CLIC Sargent gold ribbon pin badge which has been created for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month to raise vital funds to support families. Pin badges will be available in our online shop, charity shops, and through our corporate partners J D Wetherspoon pubs, and select H Samuel and Ernest Jones stores. The classic gold ribbon pin badge will also be available in Morrisons stores.
  • Supporters can also donate to people’s ‘Challenge60’ fundraisers where they will be challenging themselves to do 60 miles of running, walking or cycling to replicate the 60 miles that families have to travel to raise vital funds and awareness.

Clare Laxton, Associate Director of Policy and Influencing at CLIC Sargent, said: “We know that travel costs are a huge issue for the families we support and that’s why we wanted to continue to talk about it during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

“At a time where families are already going through the unimaginable stress of their child being diagnosed with cancer, it’s not right that they should have to worry about whether they can afford to take their child to hospital for treatment that could save their life. Families need a Young Cancer Patient Travel Fund to cope with this unnecessary financial burden.”

CLIC Sargent is encouraging families to share their experiences by tagging us on social media. To find out how you can support CLIC Sargent during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month by getting your gold ribbon pin badge or by supporting someone’s Challenge60 fundraiser, visit



Notes to editors

Spokespeople and case studies are available for interview. For more information, please contact Rebecca Bourley on 020 8752 2938 or email For out of hours enquiries, call 0844 848 1189.

[1] CLIC Sargent ‘Are We There Yet?’ report (2018), page 6

[2] CLIC Sargent ‘Cancer Costs’ report (2016), page 6

About cancer in children and young people

Today, 12 more children and young people in the UK will hear the devastating news that they have cancer. Treatment normally starts immediately, is often given many miles from home and can last for up to three years. Although survival rates are over 80%, cancer remains the single largest cause of death from disease in children and young people in the UK.

About CLIC Sargent

When cancer strikes young lives CLIC Sargent helps families limit the damage cancer causes beyond their health. CLIC Sargent is the UK’s leading charity for young cancer patients and their families. We provide specialist support, to help and guide each young cancer patient and their family. We will fight tirelessly for them, individually, locally and nationally. For more information, visit

Note to sub editors

Please note that the name ‘CLIC Sargent’ should not be abbreviated to CLIC, and that the word ‘CLIC’ should always appear in capitals, as above.

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