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Traveling for Cancer Treatment



Cancer treatment is absolutely exorbitant, especially when a patient needs to travel long-distance for life-saving care. But fortunately, many organizations help by offering free or deeply discounted travel and lodging for patients, and for loved ones accompanying them.

Who knew? I didn’t — until I became a cancer patient myself, and decided to explore this. I found numerous charitable organizations that help with this. I’ve listed many below, with links to each website.

Their requirements vary, of course. Several of them help not only cancer patients, but also patients with other serious diseases.

So, my best suggestion is — don’t book before you look into these options.


Free tickets for cancer patients are available on private planes, corporate planes, and on some major airlines, including:

  • Southwest provides free roundtrip tickets to 79 nonprofit hospitals and medical organizations for distribution among patients (with cancer or other serious diseases) and/or caregivers.

  • American Airlines has several programs offering complimentary roundtrip tickets, based on donated miles, such as Miles for Kids in Need.

Free travel on private or corporate planes can be found through various nonprofit medical transportation organizations, such as:

  • Mercy Medical Angels'( Patient Travel Referral program  offers free or “deep-discount” air tickets; flights by volunteer pilots; or free train or bus tickets or gas cards.

·                Cancer Hawk lists 13 organizations offering free flights for cancer patients.

·                Air Care Alliance lists 77 aviation organizations that provide free transportation for medical or other humanitarian purposes, like disaster relief or animal rescue from overcrowded shelters.

Here are a few more charitable medical transportation organizations:


Free lodging near hospitals is offered by many organizations.

  • The American Cancer Society(ACS) has 36 free Hope Lodges across the U.S. A guest at the St. Louis, MO Hope Lodge described it as a “wonderful, bright, cheery, warm, friendly environment — just like home.” That’s a typical rave found on each lodge’s individual webpages.

The ACS Hope Lodge in New York City is a high-rise building in the very convenient, trendy Chelsea area in the west 20s and 30s. Another Hope Lodge is in Cleveland’s University Circle, one of the city’s major health, educational and cultural hubs — very close to the renowned Cleveland Clinic. Another lodge is in Rochester, MN, near the famed Mayo Clinic.

The American Cancer Society even offers free car rides to and from medical appointments in many cities. Reserve at least three business days in advance through ACS Live Chat , or by calling its toll-free Cancer Helpline 1-800-227-2345.

  • For families of seriously ill children, the Ronald McDonald Foundation provides free stays at Ronald McDonald Houses or “family rooms” within some hospitals.

  • For families of military personnel and veterans being treated at major military and Veterans Administration (VA) medical centers, there are 76 Fisher Houses that provide free housing — for up to 42 family members! They are in the U.S., Britain and Germany.

The Fisher House Foundation also has “Hero Miles” and “Hotels for Heroes” programs that offer free flights and free hotel stays, thanks to donated frequent flyer miles on five U.S. airlines, and to donated hotel points.

  • Joe’s House is not a house, but a listing of thousands of places to stay that offer a discount to patients and their families. These places are near hospitals and medical centers across the U.S.

  • Cancer Horizons extends far beyond free lodging and transportation. Its website’s “Free Stuff” section lists organizations that offer complimentary stays at camps or beach houses; financial or legal assistance; grief support for young people; free hats and scarves; and more. Cancer Horizon even has resources to help with pet cancer.

Another option is to ask a hotel whether it offers a “medical rate.” Some Hilton Hotels  have discounted rates near major hospitals, like Houston’s M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

One of the most efficient ways to research all this is to ask your hospital whether it has a “patient travel assistance program” to help you get these offers.

For example, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City has negotiated special rates and amenities with many hotels and long-term stay facilities near the hospital.

All of these organizations offer hope as well as help. So, after finding all this help, I felt like that quote from Arthur Miller’s play After the Fall — “With all this darkness, the truth is that every morning when I awake, I’m full of hope!”


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