Cheltenham cancer survivor choosing between heating and eating as energy costs soar

Karen was half way through a sociology degree when she was told she had aggressive bowel cancer Credit: Karen Bucknall

A cancer surviver is having to choose between food and heating amid soaring energy bills.

Karen Bucknall, from Cheltenham, is in remission from cancer having got the all clear in July 2020.

Keeping warm is vital for her recovery, but the financial cost of living with the illness is having an impact on Karen's life.

It comes as Macmillan Cancer Support says it has given out more than £1million in grants over the past three months to desperate patients dreading their next energy payment.

Those relying on this support say they are being hit by a double whammy of financial pressures associated with their illness and the escalating cost of living.

After seeing her bills go up in recent months, Karen has told ITV News she is really feeling the pressure.

  • ' I can't have food that will keep me healthy and strong in recovery'

"I'm on benefits so it's a real struggle," she said. "The cost of living is just getting higher and higher.

"The food bills, the fuel bills, everything is costing more money and for me personally, I have to keep warm because my body gets very, very cold.

"With the fuel bills getting higher, I'm really scared of opening my next bill because I know it's going to be really high.

"It's a real struggle, I need to get back into a healthy lifestyle but at the moment I have to forsake my fruit, my vegetables, my salad, because there isn't enough money.

"There's a difference between eating badly and eating cheap food because that's all you can afford.

"It means I can't have food that will keep me healthy and strong in recovery."

Karen completed her degree during treatment. Credit: Karen Bucknall

Cancer patients will often feel cold and fragile after treatments. The idea that some might not be able to afford a warm home is especially heartbreaking for people like Karen.

Karen said: "We only have one heater on because I'm just so frightened of that fuel bill.

"Even now in remission, I get really cold and I can't even afford to have my heating on in my bedroom. I'm just so fearful of this massive bill."

Cancer charity Macmillian has already handed out more than £1million pounds in past three months to support cancer patients who can't afford their energy bills.

The charity says heating costs is the number one issue people with cancer are asking for grants for support with.

In addition to the current cost of living crisis, further research shows around one in six people with cancer (17%) see their household fuel bills rise simply as a result of their diagnosis, with the average increase in cost for those affected reaching £100 a month.

Macmillan says the increased cost of living is just another financial worry for those diagnosed with cancer. Credit: Macmillan Cancer Support

Christopher Jones from the Energy Advice Team Leader at Macmillan Cancer Support said: "Cancer doesn't just stop at the hospital you know, it takes over every aspect of a person's life.

"We've had a significant uptake in people calling our support line to get energy advice.

"Understandably, this is people who may be going through, already, a nightmare situation where they have been diagnosed with cancer and they're going to have to go through long term treatment. But now on top of this, they've got these extra costs."

A government spokesperson from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: "We are committed to supporting vulnerable households with heating their homes, which is why we have announced a £9.1billion support package to help families dealing with rising energy costs.

“This is on top of a strong financial safety net already in place for anyone with a long-term health condition or a disability, including Statutory Sick Pay, Personal Independence Payment, Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and Universal Credit."