Cost of living crisis even tougher for cancer patients with a third struggling to pay bills

Cancer patients are resorting to desperate measures to pay bills as they struggle with the cost of living - with some even relying on loan sharks.

Research by Macmillan Cancer Support reveals more than a third of patients (39%) buy less food to make ends meet, while 16% have had to sell personal possessions or borrow money to make ends meet.

Sal, from Bolton, was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2022.

She is currently on long-term sick leave and has not been able to afford to turn the central heating on.

Her husband has had to take on a second job simply to keep a roof over their heads.

"Having cancer is scary enough," says Sal. "But then thinking, oh my God how am I going to pay the bills, is just an extra level of fear that people shouldn't be going through.

"From day one my income plummeted, just over a thousand pounds a month, and it does put an extra level of fear on top of the whole situation.

"You've got nothing coming in and it's terrifying, and of course with the cost of living crisis, everything is going up in price but wages and benefits aren't. So it is sinking even further.

"It is like drowning in mud somedays, trying to figure out what we can cut back on today.

"That added extra stress, the financial worries, is upsetting and infuriating in equal measure."

Sal says they've cut down on everything and they are still struggling to make ends meet Credit: ITV News

Sal's husband Mark says "We've cut back on everything."

The couple say they cut all their television subscriptions, turned the heating off, stopped using the dishwasher, the oven and the tumble drier.

At one point they said they even used two buckets of water to wash their clothes rather than using their washing machines.

"There's not enough clear guidance on what's available for people." says Mark.

"There is quite a lot out there but it's as if it's hidden away in a cupboard, you've got to find it to be able to help yourselves.

"At the moment we're surviving, we're not living, and that's the problem."

The survey by Macmillan Cancer Support also found that tens of thousands (22%) have been spending more time in bed to stay warm, which could put their health, wellbeing or recovery from cancer at risk. 

In some extreme cases, the research showed that those going through or recovering from cancer treatment in the UK were resorting to borrowing money from unlicensed lenders such as loan sharks, while others are at risk of potential eviction from their homes.

Sal was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2022. She and her husband Mark say they've suffered financially as a result Credit: ITV News

Richard Pugh, from Macmillan Cancer Support, says: "A cancer diagnosis is hard enough, but added on top of that the thought of not being able to afford to eat properly or put the heating on when you've got the greatest need is absolutely tragic and thats what we're hearing from patients is that they're choosing to heat or eat and both are critical for recovery when you have cancer.

"The most shocking thing here is that patients, going through cancer treatment, are having to sell items in their homes or taking loans out just to get by, on top of having cancer treatment, that is not acceptable."

Those diagnosed with cancer are entitled to Personal Independent Payments (PIP) from the Government.

Macmillan say it is vital people are helped to complete forms to get what they are entitled to.

But the charity says often patients are having to wait 16 weeks for those payments to be processed.

A Government spokesperson said: “We understand how difficult and life-altering a cancer diagnosis can be which is why we’re committed to getting people the support they’re entitled to as quickly as possible, and we will backdate awards to ensure no one misses out.

“We are working constantly to make improvements to our service by boosting resources and opening up assessments by phone and video, and the latest statistics show clearance times have greatly improved, returning to pre-pandemic levels.

“We are also protecting the most vulnerable households across the UK – saving households around £1,300 on energy bills this winter and providing a further £12bn of direct support in 2023-24, including £900 worth of cost of living help for those on means-tested benefits.”

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