Cancer care bus top of Derry woman’s ‘bucket list’

A Derry woman has urged local people to help fundraise for a second Northern Ireland Cancer Care bus so the charity can help more people locally travel to Belfast for treatment.

Tracey McCay first spoke to the ‘Journal’ in April this year after recovering from cancer and doing a charity sky dive in aid Foyle Search and Rescue.

Unfortunately, Tracey got word two weeks ago that the cancer has come back and she now has stage four kidney cancer, which has spread to her lungs. She is to head to Belfast on Monday morning for chemotherapy.

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Northern Irish Cancer Care is a Derry charity that provide transport for cancer patients to and from hospital appointments, but they are currently operating at full capacity. Tracey now has to wait two weeks before she can get a seat on the bus. For now, Tracey will travel by bus and train to get to her appointment in Belfast City Hospital. She will leave her home at 6.30am and not return until 7.30pm for her four hour chemo appointment. She was told there are other people also waiting for seats.

“I don’t know how this chemo is going to affect me,” she said. “I could feel awful and then have to get the train home, which wouldn’t be great. The cancer bus is comfortable with specialised equipment and it takes you right to your home. If you’re not feeling great then that’s a Godsend. Another bus is badly needed because people are struggling financially, too, and can’t afford to drive or take public transport. I’ll give my train fare to the bus to cover some of their costs because it’s about the comfort for me.”

Tracey cannot get treatment in Altnagelvin as she went to Belfast for an operation to get a tumour removed in 2020. She is now under the care of the Belfast Trust.

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She has decided to start a fundraising campaign to get another bus for the charity and to give her something to focus on through her treatment. She said: “I had an idea for everyone in Derry to wear their pyjamas for a day. We were all stuck inside in our pyjamas during the pandemic so why not wear them out for a day and have some fun? Cancer doesn’t have to be depressing, we can make it fun. I would like children and schools to be involved too because children are affected by cancer too. It could be a parent, aunt or grandparent but they should be involved in raising awareness. A friend of mines had mentioned a fun day, maybe a bouncy castle and an ice cream van for a few hours. “

Because she’s not sure how chemo will affect her, Tracey would love the people of Derry to come together to help her out. “This is on my bucket list and it would be a dream come true if everyone could get involved and raise enough money for the bus. It’s something that I would have done in my life. I did the sky dive myself, and it was absolutely amazing. But this time, I want everyone to be involved because cancer affects everyone.

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Tracey McCay doing a skydive in aid of Foyle Search and Rescue in April of this year.

“I thought I was cancer free when I did the sky dive but I had been getting scans every three months. They then told me they found nodules so I got a CT scan and then I got a letter to go up to see the consultant in Belfast. Last time I saw him, it was because I had to get major surgery on December 22. I was diagnosed the 2nd of September in 2020 so I love twos. I would like a fundraiser on the 2nd of September which would be two years since I first got diagnosed.“

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Tracey is taking a step back from fundraising but is hoping that, by sharing her story, other people will be encouraged to raise money for the much-needed bus. She has asked that anyone who would like to donate money, do so through Northern Irish Cancer Care, at Unit 6, Glendermott Valley Business Park in Drumahoe.

Jason Hughes runs Northern Irish Cancer Care and is ‘incredibly grateful’ to Tracey for her ‘kindness’ and for any donations made in her name to help the charity get another bus.

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Anyone who is organising an event and would like to keep Tracey informed can email her at [email protected]