Money worries and cancer: your stories

Published: 08 November 2023

Helga, Ruth and Laura share how getting money advice can make such a difference when you are living with cancer.

Caring for others and understanding benefits

Registered nurse Helga Foyster, 53, from Norwich was put in touch with Macmillan when her daughter Lucy, 8, was diagnosed with bone cancer and she had to stop work to care for her. Helga has just marked five years since her own treatment for breast cancer.

A child with their mum smiling.

I’ve worked as a nurse for 35 years but had to stop work to care for my daughter when she fell ill, which has been the biggest challenge of my life.

Fortunately, my employer granted me carers and sick leave while Lucy was having treatment, but the pay wasn’t enough to cover the costs of travel and caring for a child who now had difficulty moving about and caring for herself in the way she had.

I knew about Macmillan’s services, having sought their help when I went through treatment for breast cancer, so felt confident turning to them for advice again.

I sat by my daughter’s bedside in the hospital talking to my Macmillan adviser Cathy over the phone and via email about applying for benefits. It was a very challenging and lengthy process.

I honestly don’t think I would have been able to complete my application on time without Macmillan’s support

Our financial stability depended on being able to access additional support quickly and I knew that without expert advice, and with my mind on other things, I would struggle to understand and navigate the welfare benefits system.

It was so much easier to share information with one person who knew the system back to front and could work out what I was eligible for. It was a weight off my mind in what was an extremely difficult year.

Using the heating and keeping warm

Ruth was diagnosed with breast cancer and here she talks about how she won’t put the heating on as she is worried about the costs.

Ruth has brown shoulder length hair, a yellow jumper and hat on.

I’ve had to rely on charities to help me access emergency funds, it’s been stressful and has affected my mental health. I’ve had to cash in savings and don't put heating on during the day and keep busy to stay warm.

If I’m tired, I literally have to go to bed and get under the duvet so as not to feel the cold. I often wear my dressing gown over my clothes and have fingerless gloves and a hat.

I feel like my body has been totally wiped out by chemo. It’s as if it has aged me several years physically and mentally.

The financial pressures on top just add another layer of stress and worry that is so hard.

Learn more about managing heating costs and ways to keep warm without putting your heating on.

Getting advice from Macmillan Support Line

Laura lives with breast cancer and here she shares her experiences of asking for help from the Macmillan Support Line.

Laura is walking by the coast in a green Macmillan t-shirt.

I’d started receiving SSP (Statutory Sick Pay), which wasn’t nearly enough to cover my rent and heating and had read that Macmillan could look into the other financial support available.

I had been a working person my whole life and had never claimed benefits, so I needed help. I had been worried I would call Macmillan and they would just redirect me to another organisation, but they didn’t and it was a really lovely phone call.

They told me about the help I could receive through Universal Credit, as well as about possible council tax relief and the Macmillan Grant. Up to that point, I didn’t know how I would get any heating, let alone pay my rent.

Calling up the Macmillan Support Line was straightforward and not as daunting as I thought it would be.

She just let me talk and let me cry. It was far removed from the more clinical, time-limited conversations I’d had in hospital; on the support line it was very personal and I felt I had as much time as I needed.

At the end of the conversation, I just remember feeling sheer relief that I could cover the cost of rent and heating for another month, or at least until my Universal Credit payments kicked in about five weeks later.

We’re not a family that live on the breadline, but we don’t have a lot of money in the bank, and it did feel unfair that people who haven’t chosen to have a life changing diagnosis, who haven’t chosen to be out work, aren’t automatically fast-tracked to be given advice about available financial help.

Tag: WAM


Macmillan's financial support videos


In the videos below our Macmillan financial guides share information to help support you with the financial impacts of cancer. The playlist covers Macmillan's financial guides service, mortgage payments, life insurance, travel insurance and power of attorney.


Get support 

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Further advice about cost of living

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