Blog: My cancer commute - the impact of travelling miles for treatment as a young person

Ayesha McGregor was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in May 2016. Her cancer commute for treatment took her over 30 miles away from home. As she had to give up work, Ayesha was reliant on lifts to hospital from her dad which meant their petrol bill went up and up. She shares her experiences here for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. 

Blog: My cancer commute - the impact of travelling miles for treatment as a young person

On May 31st 2016 I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at the age of 18, after a month of tests looking into a lump that had been growing on my neck. I started six months of ABVD chemotherapy on June 15th 2016.  

When I began having tests to determine if there was anything wrong I was living in Perth, Scotland so my parents were traveling from their home Saltcoats to Perth, and then onto Dundee to the hospital there. A one-way trip was over 120 miles, and then they had to make that same journey back home as well.

When I got my diagnosis I chose to get my treatment at the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre which meant I was traveling from Saltcoats to Glasgow, as I had to move back to live with my parents. That trip is 30+ miles one way and as my parents couldn’t stay with me at the hospital, they had to travel back home and then had to make the journey again to pick me up. This meant that they were travelling around 120 miles in one day.

My dad says this was incredibly tiring, especially if he was working a nightshift the night before. He would get in around 7am; drive me to the hospital and then drive back home again. This meant he wasn’t getting to his bed until around 10am and then he would be back to pick me up at 5pm, before going back to work after dropping me off at home. He was incredible, I don’t know how he managed.

I had to make this journey at least once a week for six months, although this could change to multiple times a week as I had tests and scans throughout my treatment to see if the chemotherapy was working. The scans would take place either at the hospital in Glasgow or at my local hospital. On some occasions I could be at both hospitals on the same day which would mean we were spending a lot more time travelling and more money than usual.

We were spending at least £15 more a week in petrol alone, and it was more if it was a scan/test week. This adds up to £60 a month and £360 over the course of my treatment. My parents were spending any extra money they had on petrol and any other additional expenses that came with my treatment, like higher energy bills or extra food shopping when I had to take steroids.

I had to give up my job and move back home for my treatment when I was diagnosed so I had no income myself. I had to wait 3 months before I could apply for any benefits which meant that I couldn’t help with any of the additional costs. I found this very frustrating as my parents were spending money to get me to the hospital and I couldn’t contribute anything to help.

CLIC Sargent is calling for the Government to set up an annual Young Cancer Patient Travel Fund to help families with the cost of getting hospital and back. Please sign it