Family of five-year-old girl with cancer cutting back to afford to take her for hospital treatment

  • Watch a report by ITV News Anglia's Rob Setchell

The mum of a young cancer patient says her family are sacrificing hobbies, holidays and having to make cutbacks in order to pay for travel costs for her daughter's treatment.

Stacey Buttle from Norwich is backing a new national campaign calling for better financial support towards travel costs for cancer treatment.

Her five-year-old daughter Kayla was diagnosed with cancer at the age of just three in 2021 after developing a pain in her leg.

Following a trip to A&E, she was transferred to Addenbrookes in Cambridge, where the family were given confirmation Kayla had neuroblastoma and would need to start treatment right away.

Mrs Buttle said: "I was like 'she's fine to look at... She's running around. How can a pain in her leg be cancer?'" she told ITV News Anglia.

"Every day there was a new poke, a prod, a needle, a blood test."

Kayla has stage four cancer and is continuing to undergo treatment. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Since her treatment started, Stacey, 37, and her husband Wayne, 39, have made more than 200 trips to Addenbrooke's - a journey of more than 60 miles from their family home.

While the family, who receive benefits, were able to claim back some of the travel costs via an NHS travel scheme, it did not cover everything.

"Your head's a mess, you panic. You think 'how am I going to survive?'

"How are we going to financially afford things? How are we going to afford to live in a house and supplement being in a hospital?" said Mrs Buttle.

"On a good week it would cost us at least £50 a week, on a bad week up to £90 depending on how many trips you have to do."

"It's horrendous, absolutely horrendous."

Kayla when she was younger with her brothers Riley and Kory. Credit: Family photo

From football training, to cancelling holidays, the mother-of-three said money worries had affected her entire family, including her two elder boys, Riley, 11 and eight-year-old Kory.

"How are we going to afford fuel? How are the boys going to keep doing their extra-curricular activities? Can we afford to do the extra-curricular activities any more?" she said.

"Not only do you break their hearts because you tell them their sister is poorly, you break their hearts because they're not fulfilling being children.

"You're always worried. If I have less than half a tank of fuel I'm worrying because if she needs to go to Addenbrooke's I need to make sure I have that in my car.

"You're constantly going 'do I have enough money in my bank?'"

"It's put a mountain on worry on our shoulders."

The charity Young Lives vs Cancer has launched a campaign calling on the government for a Young Cancer Patient Travel Fund - asking for better financial support to help young people and families face the costs of travel.

It comes as research conducted by the charity found:

  • Children and young people with cancer and their families spend an average of £250 a month on travel to and from treatment including petrol, congestion charges, public transport and taxi fares;

  • Families have to travel an average of 350 miles a month;

  • 71% of families say they are struggling to meet these travel costs;

  • One in 10 have even missed or delayed a treatment appointment because they could not afford it.

Helen Gravestock, a director at Young Lives vs Cancer, said: “When a child or young person is diagnosed with cancer, they are full of fear of the treatment, its side effects and the impact it will have on their family and friends.

"The last thing families like Kayla’s should be worrying about is whether they can afford to travel to hospital for their treatment.

“Having to spend an average of £250 a month on travel alone has left many young people and families running on empty not only financially but emotionally and physically too.

"Knowing young people and families are making the tough decision to miss or delay treatment because of these mounting costs just isn’t right."

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