Undergoing cancer treatment can be an overwhelming and emotional time and this is often made even more challenging if you’re away from home and your usual support networks.
Maintaining a support network throughout your treatment is important for your emotional and mental wellbeing.
To help you reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation while undergoing treatment away from home, we’ve put together some tips:
- Speak to other people at the hospital or accommodation facilities – discussing how you are feeling with someone who also shares a similar diagnosis to you can be a good way to connect with someone who understands the emotions you may be feeling.
- If you’re well enough, check out some local attractions and community events – The City of Adelaide website is a great resource to see what’s happening in the CBD and surrounding suburbs.
- If you have your own laptop and are staying at either Cancer Council Lodge, you will be able to access WiFi – this means you can set up video chats with your family and friends via applications like Skype, Zoom and Microsoft Teams.
- Counsellors may be able to assist you if you are dealing with emotional issues by offering advice and support – they may be available at your hospital or through your specialist or GP who may be able to refer you to a private counsellor.
- Experienced cancer nurses are also available for free counselling through Cancer Council’s 13 11 20 information and support service. This service is available in person or over the phone, by appointment, to South Australians diagnosed with cancer and their partners, family or friends experiencing emotional distress.
- If you’re staying at a Cancer Council Lodge, you can speak to reception about the option of having an informal chat with the onsite social worker – you could also check the noticeboards for Cancer Council SA group outings, which offer social interaction to those undergoing treatment. These affordable outings are run by volunteers and usually take place on Sundays.
The idea of travelling to a hospital for your treatment or appointments when you don’t live locally may be overwhelming at first. However, if you don’t have a car or someone to drive you, there are a number of transport programs and options that may assist you and your family to get to and from your appointments safely:
- If you’re staying at a Cancer Council SA Lodge, you may be able to access the Transport to Treatment service. This is a bus service to take you (and your carer, if space permits) to and from the Cancer Council Lodge at Greenhill and/or Flinders to the Royal Adelaide Hospital, St Andrew’s Hospital, Tennyson Medical Centre or the Flinders Medical Centre. The Cancer Council SA bus service runs several times a day. To book a seat, speak to reception when you arrive at either Lodge.
- The Leukaemia Foundation offers free transport to and from haematology appointments in Leukaemia Foundation patient transport vehicles. These vehicles are operated by friendly, trained volunteers. Bookings are essential, so phone (08) 8169 6000 or 1800 620 420 for more information or to secure your seat.
- The Red Cross Transport Scheme provides elderly people or people with a disability and their carers, access to transport to attend non-urgent medical appointments, when no other means of transport is available. To find out more about this scheme and register, phone 1800 246 850 or (08) 8100 4550.
- Check with your treating hospital as to whether they have any transport services available for patients and their carers.
- Catching a bus, tram or train to your treatment and/or appointments is a cost effective way to get around Adelaide and its surrounding suburbs. For information about public transport routes and timetables visit www.adelaidemetro.com.au.
You will need a metroCARD to use public transport in Adelaide. Depending on your age, mobility or if you have a disability, you may be eligible for concession fares on all Adelaide Metro vehicles. Interstate concessions cards may not be valid in South Australia. To find out more and apply, visit www.adelaidemetro.com.au/Tickets-Fares/metroCARD
- There are a number of taxi companies servicing Adelaide. When you ring to book, you will need to confirm your pick-up address, pick-up time and the address of your destination. You’ll find taxi ranks located at most hospital entrances.
Adelaide Independent Taxi Service: phone 13 22 11
Suburban Taxis: phone 13 10 08
Yellow Cab Co: phone 13 22 27
Access Cabs (cater for wheelchair users or people with mobility issues and disabilities): phone 1300 360 940
- Smartphone apps, such as Uber and Ola, can provide affordable car rides to the hospital or Cancer Council SA Lodges.
- Whilst parking is available at most hospitals, it can be expensive. If you are attending a public hospital and need to stay more than two hours, parking on hospital grounds comes at a cost. However, if you need to attend a public hospital on a regular basis, for example—for chemotherapy or radiotherapy treatment—speak to your treating team about other assistance that may be available to you to help cover the costs of parking.
If you aren’t eligible for any assistance as outlined above, it may be worth asking if you can negotiate a weekly or discounted rate.
While you are receiving treatment away from home, you may wish to head to the supermarket or shopping centre to buy some basic supplies.
South Australian shopping centres generally follow the below opening hours:
- Although there are some exceptions (e.g. some supermarkets), opening hours in Adelaide are generally 9.00 am – 5.00 pm on Monday to Friday, 9.00 am – 5.00 pm on Saturday and 11.00 am – 5.00 pm on Sunday.
- On Thursdays, most shops in the suburbs are open until 9.00 pm.
- On Fridays, city stores are open until 9.00 pm.
Finding your way around the hospital, particularly for the first time, may be daunting. Fortunately, most public hospitals have volunteer guides that are able to help direct you. Most hospitals will be able to provide you with a map at their information desks. If you get lost, don’t be afraid to ask!
Discussing your diagnosis and treatment plan with your health care team may be difficult given the time constraints and overwhelming nature of the discussion.
- Ask your treatment team if they can provide you with information on how they plan to structure your treatment (when, what, where and whom), so that you know exactly what is happening. If they don’t have a formal plan written out, they may be able to give you a verbal summary, which you can then write down.
- Keep track of your treatment plans from all the different health professionals you meet with by keeping a diary or writing these plans down. Your treatment team may also be able to provide helpful printed factsheets to take home.
- Don’t feel rushed and make sure you get answers to your questions.
Going to see your specialist doctor for the first time can be quite daunting, but one way to help is to take a list of questions with you to ask the doctor. You can refer to this list for an idea of some questions you may like to ask.
Questions unique to country cancer patients may include:
- What should I do if I experience these symptoms in the middle of the night?
- Is there a member of my treatment team I can contact? Can you please write down the relevant phone numbers for me?
- Would it be helpful for me to stay in Adelaide with family or friends for a while before returning home?
- How will I get home? Will I need to make my own transport arrangements?
- What type of care and equipment will I need when I get home (e.g. dressings, shopping, cleaning)?
- Who will provide the care and equipment I need when I get home?
- Can my follow up appointments be held at my home or will I need to come back to Adelaide again?
Social workers may be able to help you deal with practical, financial and emotional issues, while you undergo treatment. Social work services are available to all public hospital patients and their families and friends to help them deal with the issues they face.
Depending on where you’re staying and/or receiving treatment, you may be able to access social workers by calling the numbers below:
- Flinders Medical Centre: phone (08) 8204 4144
- Lyell McEwin Hospital: phone (08) 8182 9100 and ask for the Duty Social Worker
- The Queen Elizabeth Hospital: phone (08) 8222 7250
- Royal Adelaide Hospital: phone (08) 7074 0000 and ask for the social work department
- Cancer Council Lodges: if you’re a guest at one of these facilities, speak to reception about organising a meeting with an onsite social worker. They will do their best to assist you with any financial, emotional or practical difficulties you are facing.
There are effective methods of controlling or minimising the side effects of your treatment, so it is important to discuss potential or current side effects you are experiencing, with your doctor.
You should receive information about the potential side effects and how to manage them at home from your treatment team.
Here are some other helpful tips to ensure you feel supported in managing your treatment side effects at home:
- Ask your doctor what sorts of side effects or symptoms you should be concerned about when you get home and what to do if you experience them. For example, your treating team may have a 24-hour number you can ring for advice or your doctor may suggest ringing 000.
- The nurses at Cancer Council SA may be able to provide you with some general advice on how to manage side effects by calling 13 11 20.
- Health Direct Australia is a 24-hour health advice line staffed by registered nurses who may be able to provide you with information regarding your treatment side effects. They can be contacted on 1800 022 222.
You may benefit from attending a ‘look good feel better‘ workshop to help you deal with the appearance-related side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy— such as hair loss and changes to the skin.
Visit the look good feel better website for more information.
Getting ready to return home after your treatment in Adelaide may be met with a mix of emotions—from feelings of relief to anxiousness about leaving your health care team.
Here is a list of things to do before you leave hospital, to ensure you feel supported and informed upon your return home:
- Check whether any follow up appointments have been made for you and note these down in your diary or calendar.
- Make sure you’ve been given all of the medication you need and a list of medications you are currently on, including dosages.
- Ask for a treatment summary that you can share with your GP or any new health care professionals you may need to see once you’re back home.
- If necessary, ensure that your carer knows how to look after you at home.
- If you’ve had surgery and plan to fly home, ask your doctor for a medical certificate stating you are fit for air travel. You may also need a medical certificate for your workplace.
- Make sure your doctor has signed your Patient Assistance Transport Scheme (PATS) form so you can receive financial support, if you’re eligible.
- Compile a list of contact numbers of your treating team to call on if you have symptoms, side effects from treatment or general questions.
- You are usually responsible for your own transport home, even if you travelled to Adelaide via a road ambulance or the Royal Flying Doctor Service. If this type of transfer is medically required, you may be responsible for the cost (which is very expensive, unless you have ambulance cover). If you book on a commercial flight, remember to advise them if you will require a wheelchair and ask your doctor for a medical certificate stating that you are fit to travel via air.
For further information and support, call 13 11 20 to speak to an experienced cancer nurse who can tailor information to meet your specific informational, emotional and practical needs.