Patients generally need to travel between 10 and 20 times from their communities for cancer treatment.
We know that for women living in NWT, travelling for treatment and staying away from home is one of the most stressful parts of the cancer journey. This is especially true for those living in remote communities who may need to take several planes to get from home to Edmonton or Yellowknife. Added to that is the possibility of being away from home for some time, staying somewhere unknown, and then having to travel home, often feeling unwell and vulnerable after surgery or other treatment.
Who Arranges My Travel and Accommodations
If you are a permanent resident of Canada living in the Northwest Territories, your medical travel and accommodation costs (as well as the costs of treatment) will be paid for by the Health & Social Services Department of the Government of Northwest Territories.
Your healthcare provider will fill in the necessary forms to begin with. You will then be contacted by the person responsible for arranging the travel. Who this is will depend on several things, such as if you have a job and who you work for. At least some parts of your travel may be organised from Edmonton, if that is where you are having treatment.
If you are unsure what is happening, or unhappy with it, talk to your healthcare provider or other person responsible for your travel arrangements. You can also contact Medical Travel here
Arrangement are often complicated and can change at the last minute, for example because of weather delays. It is therefore important before you travel, you know as much as you can about who to contact at various stages of your travel, and especially who to talk to if things go wrong along the way. Make sure that you have any necessary names and phone numbers easily available.
We are pleased that our recent survey NWT Breast Cancer Journeys Project reported that in most cases patients were positive about travel arrangements and the various people responsible for helping them.
It is also important that you ask for an escort at the beginning, when your travel is first being arranged. We have a page on escorts here.
Where will I stay?
In Yellowknife and Edmonton there are medical boarding homes for First Nations and Inuit patients. Vital Abel House and Larga House.
Government of Northwest Territories employees generally stay in hotels.
Compassion House in Edmonton is a charity providing low cost accommodation for women from Alberta and NWT who are travelling more than 50 kilometres for breast cancer treatment at The Cross Cancer Institute. If you want to stay there, you may need to make your own arrangements and reclaim the cost. Talk to the person arranging your travel if you would like to stay at Compassion House.
Patients staying at the medical boarding homes and Compassion House are expected to prepare their own food.
It is also possible to stay with family or friends if you prefer.
There is an allowance for food and essential travel. The person arranging your travel will give you details of what you can claim and how to do this.
In Edmonton cancer treatment is at the Cross Cancer Institute and travel between there and the medical boarding home is arranged as part of your stay.
Some Advice about Travel & Accommodations
- If you are bringing your own favourite foods or medicines from home, make sure you have enough for the whole of your stay.
- On most flights you can’t take liquids in cabin baggage if it is more that 100mls (a small bottle). If you have special drinks or liquid medicine they need to be carefully sealed and wrapped in your checked baggage.
- You are especially vulnerable to infections while having chemotherapy so you might like to take hand sanitizer (small bottle for the airplane cabin) and perhaps a face mask to protect against colds and flu from other passengers.
- Have with you a letter on hospital notepaper stating that you are receiving cancer treatment, and what it is, so that if you are taken ill or need to check into emergency, people around you will be better able to help. It will also be useful to explain any medication what you may need to take as carry-on.
If you have any advice that you think would be useful on this website, please email us!