An open letter to all political leaders and local MPs,
I am a 24 year old with a rare form of endometrial cancer, the last six months of my life has been a whirlwind but until now I have managed to hold down my full time job. Next week I will regrettably be going into hospital for a partial hysterectomy, which will rid me of cancer but rob me of my fertility. If everything goes to plan I should be able to return to work within 8-12 weeks. As you can imagine this has been an emotionally fraught time for me, which has only been exacerbated by the lack of support available for cancer patients.
The last few weeks has been a huge eye opener for me to the extreme lack of support and benefits out there for cancer patients, and I have struggled with a huge amount of added stress and pressure trying to arrange finances and care for my time in recovery.
I am not alone in being unable to afford cancer.
I’m not rare in not having the savings to support myself when off work for a prolonged length of time. Statutory sick pay is just under £90 a week, and many people who are self employed or on zero hour contracts will not even receive that. I can only speak for myself, but to give some context of the shortfall, the cost of my (relatively low) mortgage and essential bills each month is between £550-£600, and that is before I eat. Leaving a £240 monthly shortfall before even getting started. Macmillan’s research has found that four in five people with cancer are £570 a month worse off as a result of their diagnosis.
Looking into cancer support is an absolute minefield. After a huge amount of time, effort and stress, I have managed to get my head around it, to find out I am not eligible for any help. I have sought advice from charities such as Macmillan and Clic Sargent who offer small grants and amazing advice, but there is only so much they can do with so few options available for people like me.
I live alone and am solely responsible for living costs, as well as the running of the house. This means I am looking at extra essential expenses to cope with looking after myself during recovery including food deliveries, extra heating, a regular cleaner and taxis. With no help available for care through my recovery after leaving hospital I have no other option but to pay for extra help to cover my basic needs. I can’t even begin to imagine how a single parent would cope in this situation.
With almost 1 in 2 people getting diagnosed with cancer in their life time, there are thousands of other people worried about their finances and care on top of worrying for their health and future.
In some ways I am lucky, 2-3 months off work is way below average, with most patients needing 12-18 months off for treatment and recovery, most of which would still not be granted PIP.
I implore you to place cancer support at the top of your welfare agenda to ensure that people with cancer aren’t pushed into poverty. During one of the most difficult times anyone faces during their life, they should be supported practically and financially through their care. It is an outrage that in a rich country such a Britain people are having to sell their homes and take out loans to afford cancer.