A childhood cancer diagnosis can cause an average hit of €15,300 to annual family incomes on top of other crippling added expenses, new research has indicated.
Around 200 children are diagnosed with cancer in Ireland each year.The Irish Cancer Society surveyed 100 parents and guardians of a child who is currently going through or has recently experienced a cancer diagnosis. They revealed that families of children with cancer face significant added expenses in relation to travel, treatment and costs associated with care.
CEO of the Irish Cancer Society, Averil Power, says life is turned down for families when a child is diagnosed with cancer.
“Cancer is distressing at any age, but when a child or adolescent is diagnosed with the disease, it throws the world off its axis. Survival is naturally the most important concern for families, but it is the scale of the financial misery layered on top of such a life-changing diagnosis that is the shocking finding from this research.
“When a child is diagnosed it is often the case that one parent will have to give up work. On top of obvious expenses like fuel, food, accommodation for parents and expensive hospital car parking charges, there are a range of ‘hidden costs’ such as childcare, play therapy sessions and higher phone and broadband bills from spending more time away from home.”
Miss Power says they have spoken to families who report simply having to "do without" in a lot of cases as normal life goes out the window.
“Household bills are left to pile up, leaving some in the heartbreaking position of having to raid their life savings, take out additional loans or ask others for financial help.”
The family of nine-year-old Saoirse Ruane, from Galway who underwent a life-changing amputation to her leg at the age of seven after being diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in 2019, say they had to contend with financial worries at a "frightening" time.
Roseanna Ruane, mother to Saoirse, says when a child become critically ill life comes to a standstill.
“It was frightening and daunting and I felt sick with worry and I honestly could not stop crying.
For me I wasn’t going to leave her side, but that brought that added worry of how we would survive on one salary. The bills still have to be paid and that’s the reality of it all. We were glad to be able to receive help from the Irish Cancer Society at the time, but more absolutely needs to be done to support families through such a difficult period.”
Meanwhile, the Irish Cancer Society has announced new and extended supports for families affected by childhood cancer. They are increasing their Children’s Fund grant to €3,000 and making it easier to access so that more families can be supported through treatment.
They are also extending their Volunteer Driver Service to children to help with transport costs, and are making it easier for families to access their support by establishing an Irish Cancer Society nursing presence in Children's Health Ireland, Crumlin.
Anyone seeking advice on or access to supports and resources provided by the Irish Cancer Society can contact its Freephone Support Line on 1800 200 700 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
People can donate to support vital childhood cancer services and research from the Irish Cancer Society at cancer.ie/Ddonate.