WHEN her 15-year-old son was diagnosed with a rare eye tumour Patricia Hewson, like any parent, was devastated.

But to confound the ordeal for the Taunton family, she was then told her son, Kyle Kerr, would have to travel to Liverpool for treatment - leaving the family with bills of more than £400 each week to visit and support him.

Now, Patricia is backing cancer charity CLIC Sargent’s call to political party leaders to commit to a Young Cancer Patient Travel Fund if they become the UK’s next Prime Minister.

Many young cancer patients have to travel to specialist cancer centres across the UK for life saving treatment, which is often not available at their local hospital, the charity said.

And in the last 12 months alone, CLIC Sargent estimates 4,450 young cancer patients and their families have spent around £5 million simply travelling to and from hospital for treatment.

Patricia's family was left devastated after she took Kyle for an eye check-up in July.

What followed has been described as a ‘whirlwind’ for the family, as it led to a cancer diagnosis and two major operations in Liverpool for the teenager and the fear of losing his sight.

“Kyle started complaining that his vision in his right eye was blurred, to the point he couldn’t see anything clearly and so we took him to the optician to get it checked," said Patricia.

"That’s when the optician spotted something in Kyle’s eye and made a referral for us at our local hospital.

"The next day we were at the hospital for tests. They told us they believed it was a tumour causing a bleed behind the eye and referred us to Liverpool University Hospital as there are only three places in the UK that deal with that type of cancer, and Liverpool was the closest.”

Somerset County Gazette:

Kyle after that first eye test

In Liverpool, doctors confirmed it was cancer and a rare tumour that affects only 500 people in the UK each year – and with only one of those 500 being a child.

“They acted fast from the very first check up and I believe saved his life,” his mum said.

Kyle was given two treatment options – one which would have seen him lose his eye, or surgery that would give him the chance to save it. Kyle chose to try and save his eye.

“Kyle has been amazing taking everything in his stride as a typical teenage lad, I think for me as a parent it's having no control over this is the hardest thing,” she continued.

Patricia said the family struggled with the financial pressure of travelling to Liverpool for treatment. The hospital is four and a half hours away from the family home.

Somerset County Gazette:

Kyle in hospital in Liverpool

“We had to hire a car to make each journey for the surgery and treatment because my car is older and wouldn’t have been able to make the journeys to Liverpool. We had to arrange for people to look after our other kids too.

“It cost us around £410 for the week in Liverpool purely for the car, putting fuel in it, extra childcare and nursery for the little one and extra bits for Kyle to be in hospital.”

During this difficult time, the family received support from CLIC Sargent, who provide practical, emotional and financial support.

Last year, CLIC Sargent research revealed that young cancer patients travel twice as far and costing twice as much as adults for treatment.

Families face an average round-trip of 60 miles to get to and from hospital for treatment, spending at least £180 a month on travel when treatment is at its most intense.

Now, Kyle is due to have another procedure in February which the family are hoping will give him some sight back.

He is back in school and preparing for his GCSEs, with the family determined to help others struggling with the costs of travelling to hospital for their child’s treatment by sharing their story and highlighting the need for the next Prime Minister to set up a Young Cancer Patient Travel Fund.

Patricia also took on a challenge in September to cover 430 miles by walking and by whatever means possible to raise more than £1,000 for CLIC Sargent and St Paul’s Eye Unit at Liverpool University Hospital to give back.

Jenny Mullen, CLIC Sargent fundraising engagement manager for Somerset, urged people to back the charity's campaign.

More details can be found at www.clicsargent.org.uk/travel-costs. 

“At a time when families are already going through the unimaginable stress of their child being diagnosed with cancer, it’s not right that they should have to worry about whether they can afford to take their child to hospital for life-saving treatment," she said.

“Now has to be the end of the road for travel costs.

"I’m calling on the kind people of Taunton to get behind our campaign and sign our message to all party leaders, asking them to commit to a Young Cancer Patient Travel Fund.”