I was told that I could be off work for up to 12 months. And then it hit me. Wow, how am I going to pay my bills?
After the diagnosis, when my wages stopped, my income went down £100, £150 per week. But I still had to survive. I started thinking, well, all the bills have still got to be paid, even though I’m ill. You never imagine that you have to save for cancer. Strangely enough, when I became ill all my expenses increased too. I had to buy gluten-free bread, which was over £2 a loaf instead of 35p. And my heating bills went up because I felt cold all the time.
I thought, right, I’ll have a look at the books that I was given by my specialist. She’d given me quite a few Macmillan booklets about the diagnosis. In the back it had a part where it said about work and benefits. I’m quite a practical person, so a couple of days after the diagnosis I thought, right, now gather yourself together and let’s get on with things. It was a case of getting things organised. Then I decided to ring Macmillan and it went from there. They were very helpful. They were asking me questions and that’s when you start remembering things. I had a very old pension from when I was self-employed. They explained that I could get that out in a lump sum. I dug out all the documents for my old pension and I was able to phone them and they did it all over the phone and I received it within seven days. I felt like there was a weight lifted off me. I knew I could cope on that small amount of money. It was like a year’s wage, so I was able to relax. Macmillan also checked what benefits I could apply for and then helped me fill in all the forms. Then later on I had to appeal a couple of them, and they helped me with that too.
Macmillan advised that I speak to my provider and get a discount off my heating bills at the end of the year. The relief of not having any money worries was quite amazing. It’s everything. It’s running a car – living out in the wilds, I need a car, so I have to make sure that it’s taxed, insured, MOT'd. I have to look after myself. So it’s so nice to have somebody help you. If Macmillan hadn’t have helped me, the chances are I would have had to sell my house because of this illness. I’ve lived in this house 40 years and it would have been heart-breaking having to leave it.
When Cath was diagnosed with bowel cancer she had to deal with the shock of her diagnosis, on top of the financial implications of taking a year off work. She had a mortgage to pay and was anxious about the cost of bills. She found herself worrying more about her finances than about getting through treatment.