Dev­as­tat­ing can­cer blow

Dumfries & Galloway Standard - - NEWS -

Jackie Grant

The fam­ily of a Dum­fries teenager bat­tling can­cer are back­ing a cam­paign for the gov­ern­ment to set up a fund to help with hos­pi­tal travel costs.

Emma Con­char was di­ag­nosed with the dis­ease last year, and since then, mum Claudine and dad Kevin have forked out hun­dreds of pounds on petrol tak­ing their daugh­ter to vital ap­point­ments for treat­ment.

They are sup­port­ing char­ity CLIC Sar­gent’s call to the gov­ern­ment to cre­ate a Young Can­cer Pa­tient Travel Fund, to ease the fi­nan­cial bur­den on fam­i­lies who are al­ready strug­gling emo­tion­ally.

Claudine, 44, said: “Be­cause we live in a ru­ral area, we ex­pect to have to travel to the cen­tral belt for treat­ment. But peo­ple don’t think about the fact that some par­ents might need to take time off work un­paid, or even give up their job when their child is di­ag­nosed with can­cer.”

The fam­ily was dev­as­tated when Emma was di­ag­nosed with thy­roid can­cer last Oc­to­ber, aged just 13.

When the Dum­fries High School pupil started jerk­ing her neck in funny move­ments a few months be­fore, doc­tors sug­gested she was us­ing her mo­bile phone too much.

But af­ter be­ing sent for an ul­tra­sound, it was later con­firmed that Emma had can­cer.

Claudine said: “I was in dis­be­lief; our world was turned up­side down.”

Af­ter a six-hour oper­a­tion to have her thy­roid and lymph nodes re­moved in Novem­ber, Emma had to stay in hos­pi­tal to re­cover.

The hos­pi­tal ar­ranged ac­com­mo­da­tion for the fam­ily for three days but they had to pay for a fourth night when Emma needed more time to re­cover.

She was then re­ferred for ra­dioac­tive io­dine treat­ment in Jan­uary, stay­ing two nights in a spe­cial iso­la­tion ward with lead­lined rooms.

Be­cause ra­dioac­tive io­dine ther­apy can make pa­tients ra­dioac­tive for a few days af­ter treat­ment, the fam­ily couldn’t travel by train and had to make most of the jour­neys by car.

Un­der the cur­rent NHS’s Health­care Travel Costs Scheme, just six per cent of fam­i­lies re­ceive fi­nan­cial sup­port.

Claudine said: “We’ve been so lucky with the sup­port we’ve re­ceived from work and from CLIC Sar­gent but the added fi­nan­cial dif­fi­culty is huge for peo­ple.”

CLIC Sar­gent is ask­ing the pub­lic to sign its pe­ti­tion call­ing on the Gov­ern­ment to set up a Young Can­cer Pa­tient Travel Fund.

Chief ex­ec­u­tive, Kate Lee, said: “Be­ing told that your child has can­cer is one of the most hor­ren­dous sit­u­a­tions that any par­ent can imagine.

“No par­ent should ever have to worry about not hav­ing enough money to take their child to hos­pi­tal for can­cer treat­ment. The cur­rent Gov­ern­ment travel cost scheme is not fit for pur­pose and avail­able to too few fam­i­lies.

“The NHS’ pro­vi­sion of univer­sal health­care is free at the point of en­try yet, in re­al­ity, fam­i­lies are foot­ing the bill for it.

“We know that can­cer costs and fam­i­lies are re­ally strug­gling fi­nan­cially, leav­ing fam­i­lies count­ing pen­nies, re­ly­ing on char­ity grants, bor­row­ing money from fam­ily and friends, wip­ing out sav­ings or fac­ing be­ing plunged into debt.

“This is not good enough and the gov­ern­ment needs to set up a Young Can­cer Pa­tient Travel Fund so that fam­i­lies can fo­cus on their child, rather than wor­ry­ing about mount­ing bills.”

Claudine added: “Emma has coped re­mark­ably well with ev­ery­thing and although she has her mo­ments, she’s very much tak­ing things in her stride.

“Your world is turned up­side down when you’re told your child has can­cer. Any­thing that can help re­lieve the pres­sure on fam­i­lies is wel­come and that’s why we’re urg­ing peo­ple to sign the pe­ti­tion to help.”

Sign the pe­ti­tion at: www.clic­sar­gent.org. uk/ccam.

Cam­paign sup­port­ers Emma Con­char, right, with sis­ter Clara, dad Kevin and mum Claudine Drindle

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