Posted on Wednesday 20 November 2019
“Sometimes we didn’t know how we were going to pay the mortgage at the end of the month” – Bradley Lowery’s mum Gemma opens up about impact of travel costs on families whose children have cancer
In a heartfelt plea, Bradley Lowery’s mum Gemma, CEO of the Bradley Lowery Foundation, has backed CLIC Sargent’s call to all party leaders to commit to a Young Cancer Patient Travel Fund if they become the next Prime Minister.
CLIC Sargent, the UK’s leading cancer charity for children and young people, is calling for the fund to help families struggling with the huge costs of travelling to hospital – something Gemma and her family experienced during Bradley’s cancer treatment.
New research by CLIC Sargent found that families of young cancer patients are struggling to keep a roof over their heads or heat their homes because of the huge cost of taking their child to hospital .
In the last 12 months, 4,450 young cancer patients and their families across the UK have together spent around £5 million simply travelling to treatment.
Gemma’s son Bradley was just 18 months old when he was diagnosed with the rare cancer neuroblastoma in January 2013.
Bradley’s story garnered international attention and he became club mascot for his favourite football club, Sunderland AFC, and formed a strong bond with the club’s then striker Jermain Defoe. In 2016 Bradley received over 250,000 Christmas cards from around the world.
Sadly, Bradley passed away in July 2017. Gemma set up the Bradley Lowery Foundation in August 2017 in his memory. The foundation aims to support families who are fundraising for treatment or equipment, which is not readily available or covered by the NHS. It also supports research into neuroblastoma and childhood cancers.
In an exclusive video, Gemma reveals how her family’s finances took a huge hit when Bradley was diagnosed with cancer, with travel costs having a devastating impact.
The family had to make frequent trips from home in Blackhall Colliery, County Durham to the Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI) hospital in Newcastle. The journey was around 60 miles round-trip, taking up to an hour each time.
She says: “My anxiety and my husband’s anxiety was through the roof because sometimes we didn’t know how we were going to pay the mortgage at the end of the month.
“I fundraised for treatment for Bradley, but not once did I take any money for cost of living. I got in a lot of debt and I got in a lot of arrears. The stress it causes is not acceptable.”
Speaking about families who are paying hundreds or thousands of pounds a year to take their child to hospital for treatment, Gemma says: “These families are struggling on a day-to-day basis to be able to get their child to hospital for essential treatment to save their lives… These families need a travel fund now.”
Young cancer patients have to travel to specialist cancer centres across the UK for cancer treatment, which is often not available at their local hospital. This means families are burdened with an average round-trip of 60 miles to get to and from hospital for treatment, spending at least £180 a month on petrol . Other families are forced to pay out hundreds in taxi fares or public transport costs.
The length of cancer treatment for young people varies from months to over three years, which can mean hundreds of journeys back and forth to the hospital.
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. The biggest expenses families face other than travel include food, hospital car parking, energy bills and car-related costs.
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.
Kate Lee, CEO at CLIC Sargent, said: “Parents shouldn’t have to live in fear about whether they can afford to take their child to hospital for life-saving treatment when they are already terrified for their child’s health.
“Families are facing countless journeys to and from the hospital for treatment, often stretching over years. They are at breaking point – scraping together pennies, borrowing money from family and friends, relying on charitable grants. We’re asking all party leaders to listen to young cancer patients and their families and commit to a Young Cancer Patient Travel Fund if they become the next Prime Minister.”
For more information and to join the call for a Young Cancer Patient Travel Fund, go to: www.clicsargent.org.uk/travel-costs
Notes to editors
Rebecca Bourley – Media and Communications Officer: Rebecca.Bourley@clicsargent.org.uk / 020 8752 2938
Bradley Lowery Foundation
Lynn Murphy – Head of Communications and Fundraising: firstname.lastname@example.org / 07483 145310
 CLIC Sargent developed a Facebook poll around essentials that families are unable to afford due to the financial cost of travelling for treatment. The poll was promoted in our Parents and Carers Facebook group in May 2019. 147 parents/carers from across the UK responded to the poll. The poll found that due to the costs of travelling to hospital for their child’s cancer treatment; one in three families struggle to afford rent or mortgage costs, a third of parents struggle to afford food for themselves or their partner, and one in five families struggle to afford heating in their home.
 CLIC Sargent ‘Are We There Yet?’ report (2018), page 6
 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 www.clicsargent.org.uk
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.
CLIC Sargent has announced that approximately 40 staff will be made redundant in the coming weeks and several of its charity shops are remaining closed because of the devastating financial impact of the Coronavirus pandemic.