The family of a man with terminal cancer has told how he spent days in agony fleeing bushfires, before initially being denied financial assistance from the Red Cross.

Joseph Rankin – who has stage four lung and bone cancer – and his wife Alice were among the residents feeling Mogo on the NSW South Coast, just hours before fires destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses on New Year's Eve.

'It was hell'

The couple's daughter, Laurel McKenzie, told it was a day the family would never forget.

"It was 6am in the morning when we were told to get out," Ms McKenzie said.

"Usually you could see the sun rising but it was pitch black, no electricity and we were just listening to helicopters, water bombers, sirens, ambos, fire trucks. It was an absolute war zone."

Packed into an old Mazda 3 was her partner, niece and two babies, and her parents.

The family spent four hours getting to Sanctuary Point, but when they got there they found out it wasn't safe to stay.

They were then forced to make a gruelling seven-hour journey to relatives in Penrith, in Sydney's western suburbs.

"You imagine seven people in one car for all that time, it was hell," she said.

For Ms McKenzie's 78-year-old father, the journey was hours of excruciating pain and discomfort.

"My dad takes every kind of pain relief you can imagine, opioids, morphine, oxycodone, you name it and he's probably taking it," Ms McKenzie said.

To avoid constipation caused by the endless stream of pain medication, Mr Rankin requires heavy bowl medication but as Ms McKenzie explained, this comes with an equally uncomfortable side effect that makes travel near impossible.

"His bowl medication can cause him to have quite extreme accidents and he's a fully grown adult, no one wants to go through that embarrassment and knowing he'd have to spend all that time in a car he knew he couldn't take them," Ms McKenzie said. 

Crammed into a car and unable to relieve his discomfort the pain became almost unbearable and Mr Rankin was admitted to Mt Druitt hospital.

"The nurses said that much longer, and he could basically have been throwing up his own faeces," Ms McKenzie said.

Mr Rankin spent hours in extreme pain before reaching hospital.

After two days in hospital and unable to return home to Mogo, Ms McKenzie transported her father to her home in Armidale, nine hours up the north coast.

"By the time we got there, my dad was in so much pain he couldn't even lift his head of the pillow," she said.

"He was in so much pain, so I called palliative care and when the nurse walked in she took one look at my dad and within fifteen minutes we called an ambulance."

Mr Rankin spent another week in hospital and has only recently been well enough to return to his home, which suffered significant smoke damage from the fires with the flames nearly reaching his front door.

Financial plea

To get help with replacing damaged items in her parent's home, and her father's extra medical expenses, Ms McKenzie tried to apply for a Red Cross grant.

The Red Cross provides a $7,500 payment for people who have spent two or more days in hospital due to physical or mental injury suffered from the bushfires.

But Ms McKenzie was told her father wouldn't qualify because the fire didn't cause her father's cancer.

 "When I left I was in tears, I just completely broke down," she said.

Laurel McKenzie has shared her story of fleeing the NSW bushfires with her terminally ill father.

"You don't tell a man who's dying that he doesn't qualify, after everything we've been through. That is inhumane."

"He was in hospital for more than a week and it wouldn't have happened if we hadn't had to evacuate but we didn't have a choice."

"The last three weeks has taken a hell of a toll. It's exasperated his illness, his trauma, his pain, his suffering."

Following a request from for comment, Red Cross backtracked on their decision to deny the grant and have since approved Ms McKenzie's request for financial assistance for her father.

"The financial assistance payment of $7,500 was made on Monday to Joseph Rankin to support him, for instance with expenses related to his hospitalisation due to the bushfires," Red Cross said in a statement to

"Follow up phone calls are being made to Joseph and his family today to check in and to make sure he knows the payment has been made, to support him at this time."

Source: 9News