The Real Cost of Cancer: Mairead's story

Mairead has stage 4 cancer and gets treatment every 3 weeks. This means a 214 kilometre round trip from West Cork to Cork University Hospital every time. As well as the petrol costs, Mairead has parking to pay for when she gets to the hospital.

This is just the tip of the iceberg as Mairead has been dealing with cancer since she was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007.

Since then she has made a huge amount of trips to Cork city for appointments, surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and Herceptin treatment. She estimates she has spent over €6,000 on travel costs since her initial diagnosis.

After Mairead’s first diagnosis, she was out of work for 22 months and was then out for a further 6 months when she had her scheduled breast reconstruction surgery. After recovering from her operation she went back to a 3 day week. All in all during her primary cancer treatment her loss in earnings and costs incurred as a result was about €20,000 per annum.

In 2017, Mairead starting experiencing shoulder pain and was out of work for about a month before being diagnosed with a tumour in her Brachial plexus muscle. Mairead is still out and doesn't know if she will/can return to work. She finds some weeks absolutely exhausting and cannot see how she can commit to going back to work. At the moment she is on social welfare and income protection, and an illness payment scheme from her employer.  

She is very aware that she is fortunate to have this income as many others are dependent on only Social Welfare payments.  She feels there is a huge gap in information for cancer patients who do not know what they are entitled to when on sick leave.

It took her 6 months to get a medical card and she says it was the one of the most difficult and traumatising experience of her entire cancer experience. A Stage 4 patient, Mairead was refused on medical, social and financial grounds initially.

Besides massive travel costs, Mairead’s other outgoings include complimentary therapies and physiotherapy as she experiences a lot of pain in her shoulder. Mairead has availed of the services of the Arc House in Bantry which has been invaluable over the past two years. Mairead says the psychological effect of being diagnosed with a stage 4 cancer is enormous.