'There's a motto here - you either travel or die'
Published 14/09/2015 | 02:30
IF you draw a line across a map of Ireland from Dublin to Galway and then mark on that map the eight radiotherapy units in the country, all are south of that line.
That's why for the past five years cancer survivors Eamon and Lynn McDevitt have been organising buses for patients make the long journey south for treatment from Co Donegal.
"It's a 600km round-trip for patients going to Galway. We've made that trip and we felt we needed to do something," said Eamon (64), from Glenswilly, just outside Letterkenny.
His wife Lynn (57) was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1996 and, after an intervention by doctors in Dublin, was eventually treated at Donegal's main hospital in Letterkenny
Having helped her through that battle, Eamon himself was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2010.
"By that time we were taking people by car to Galway but we knew we needed a bus and eventually raised enough money to get one," said father-of-five Eamon.
"We have a motto, and I'm not joking, and it's simple - if you live in Donegal and get cancer, you travel or you die.
"Some days the bus to Galway is packed. We fund it from a secondhand shop and from donations.
"We've tried to get funding from the HSE and from cancer charities, but we get turned down every time.
"If it wasn't for those donations and the support of ordinary people our service would end. Simple as that.
"When we started this it was about taking away one worry from a cancer victim and we feel we have done that. It's 600km from Malin to Galway and back.
"We have a feeder bus service and we get people along the road.
"You can spot the patients getting the bus for the first time. They are nervous and fidgety, but as time goes on friendships are formed on the bus. People help and support each other."
Not everyone receiving treatment in Galway travels by bus, but most do.
"There's no pressure to use the service and a lot of people need it," added Eamon.