A Saint John woman diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus has finally found a specialist for treatment, but says her case is too complicated. Now, she has to be treated outside of the province in Toronto.

Eileen Shaw received her cancer diagnosis over two months ago. Since then, she's been waiting for life-saving surgery that requires a thoracic surgeon to remove the tumour.

She was referred to surgeons in Saint John and Moncton, but they were unavailable.

The Shaws finally located a thoracic surgeon in Moncton who could take the case, but they encountered a new setback.

"The surgery proved to be a little too difficult, because of some pre-existing health conditions, the surgeon felt that she should be referred to Toronto," says Eileen’s daughter, Britney Shaw.

Now, the Shaws are wondering how much it will cost.

"Medicare covers the cost of the surgery, but as far as accommodations and flights go, that's on us," says Britney. "It’s definitely not optional, I mean, this is somebody's life.”

Britney has been told that after surgery, her mother may need to stay in Toronto for a month or longer. If that's the case, all the expenses could add up to more than $10,000.

Barb Walls of the New Brunswick Lung Association provides counselling and information to patients trying to fundraise. She says there are ways to economize and find hotel and flight deals, but it can be difficult in the patient’s situation.

"You're not reimbursed for any travel, and that includes flights, planes, taxis… and you're usually too sick to go on a bus,” says Walls. “These people are in an enormous amount of emotional, psychological and physical stress, and to have on top of it, this is quite a catastrophic financial event as well, for many people."

The Shaws will be making their first trip to Toronto later this month so Eileen can receive tests and be examined. After the initial evaluation, the family should have a better idea of when her surgery will happen and how many expenses they will have to cover.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Mike Cameron