Having treatment

Being in hospital

Depending on what type of treatment you need to have, how much and how often, you may have to spend a lot of time at a hospital.

Having long periods of time in hospital can be really boring! So here are some tips to make your hospital stay a little easier.

Tips for long hospital stays

  • Ask friends to visit (and bring snacks!).
  • Bring your trackies or favourite PJs and your pillow, photos or other stuff from home to make the hospital room more comfy.
  • Beg, borrow or steal as much media as you can – bring your phone, iPad, books, magazines.
  • Start a journal.
  • Make a visitor book or poster for visitors to sign and leave messages on.
  • Turn off your phone if you’re not feeling well or don’t feel like visitors, or when you’re ready to sleep.
  • Get to know the night nurses well (and offer them lollies if you have some). They’ll save you from insanity when you can’t sleep!
  • Get outside if you are well enough. Fresh air and sunshine always helps.
  • If you don’t have the energy to read but would love a good story to distract you, try an audio book. Entertainment with your eyes closed – bonus!

And remember the Youth Cancer Service team includes lots of people who can advise and help you cope with your time in hospital. Ask your Cancer Care Coordinator or cancer nurse about the activities, groups, services or entertainment on offer.


If you live in a regional area

Youth Cancer Services (YCS) have been developed across Australia to ensure all young people with cancer can access the best, age-appropriate care and support – regardless of where they live.

The YCS are based in five major (lead) hospitals in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide, but also work with hospitals and health services across Australia to deliver specialised care and support to all young people with cancer.

Depending on your cancer type and your situation, you might go to a lead hospital for treatment, or the YCS team can work with your local doctor/s to plan and provide the best treatment for you closer to where you live.

No matter where you have your treatment, you can access the resources and support of a YCS team.

To find out the best options for you, contact your nearest YCS.

If you have to travel to have your treatment in a hospital in a capital or major city, read the tips below from young people who’ve done it for making it as stress-free as possible and info about help with costs.

Travelling for treatment

Having to travel long distances to stay in a hospital in a capital city or big town can be really stressful.

Being alone in an unfamiliar place is hard and you might feel lonely, frightened or uncomfortable. You may be away from the support and comfort of your family and friends and miss your home, community, lifestyle or even the food you usually eat.

If you’re not having your treatment at a Youth Cancer Service (YCS) lead hospital (in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth or Adelaide), contact your nearest YCS to find out about the hospital you are going to and what support services and groups are available there.

If you’re from a rural town, ask the YCS if there is a Rural Cancer Nurse in your area. They can offer advice and help to improve coordination between your rural and city-based doctors and health services. Also ask them about telephone or online support and groups for young people with cancer.

Tips from young people with cancer who live in regional/rural areas include:

  • Try to organise several appointments for one trip.
  • If you’re not feeling well make sure you take someone who can drive with you. Consider staying overnight if you have to drive yourself.
  • Let your driver/support crew (your parents, partner or friends) know that you may not be up for sightseeing or shopping after appointments and you may just want to head straight home.
  • Take pillows for the car.
  • Print out a map and directions to get to the cancer centre, or take a charger if you’re relying on maps on your phone.
  • If you’re staying in hospital for a while, find ways to stay in touch with family and friends – phone calls, letters, emails, Facebook, Skype.
  • If you’re away a lot for treatment, you might be able to continue with your regular school work through distance education or continue your Uni study externally or online. Contact your nearest Youth Cancer Service to get advice.

Help with costs

The costs of travelling to have cancer treatment – including petrol or public transport, accommodation and eating out – can be very expensive. You or your parents may also have to take time off work or pay for childcare. These extra costs might make you feel even more stressed and worried. 

Living in regional or rural areas shouldn’t have to impact your treatment decisions. There are programs in every state and territory that provide help with travel and accommodation costs for rural patients.  Ask someone in your YCS team or find out more here.


Clinical trials

Your treatment team may suggest you take part in a clinical trial.

A clinical trial is a test of a new or modified treatment or procedure, designed to see if it is better than current methods. New drugs are first thoroughly tested in the laboratory before being tested on people.

Clinical trials are the only reliable way that doctors can establish if a new treatment is more effective than the current standard treatment, and also identify risks and side effects. Being part of a clinical trial may be the fastest way to access a new and promising cancer treatment.

There are advantages and risks, which your treatment team will explain to you, and it’s your decision whether to participate or not – and you can withdraw from a trial at any time.

If you participate in a trial, you may or may not directly benefit – but the results will help other people with cancer in the future.