Friday, 20 April 2018

Weekly Discussion Summary ~ Financial Impact of Cancer

This week our discussion explored the financial impact of cancer.

Cancer causes significant financial hardship and worry about finances adds to the sense of threat and uncertainty we feel when we are diagnosed with breast cancer - how will we be able to support ourselves and our families? We feel helpless and vulnerable. Cancer results in a loss of earnings, for very many of us who are unable to work. Increased heating and food costs as well as frequent visits to hospital - sometimes over long distances - are just a few of the examples of the other ways that cancer causes additional costs at a time when we have less income. With increasing rates in diagnosis of breast cancer, and amongst women of working age, we are at high risk of financial distress and adversity.

Cancer charities like Macmillan and Maggie's can be great, and many of us had relied on help and support to access appropriate benefits, a temporary reduction in household bills or mortgage repayments. Not all of us had positive experiences though, and some of us had been poorly advised, had benefit applications rejected and had to go through an appeals process, or had poor experiences with our banks and building societies.

Even those with more positive experiences felt that the focus tended to be on short term financial help and advice during treatment. But what about the longer term?

For those of us with primary breast cancer, the trajectory of ‘recovery’ isn’t linear and we continue to take our cancer ‘effects’ forward with us. Post traumatic stress symptoms can linger for a long time after diagnosis. With threats to our self-esteem and self-confidence, the variability in our ‘recovery’ and our change in priorities due to the uncertainty we face, we remain at a disadvantage and continue to be at a higher risk of long term financial insecurity. Fatigue is another big factor as at times even if we want to continue what we love doing, we can’t, and we have to take a step back.

Those of us with secondary breast cancer described how financial uncertainty caused additional stress and worry which impacted on both our physical and emotional well-being and our ability to pursue our goals, especially for those who had been forced to give up much-loved careers. Although those who could work part-time (depending on their role and the support available) shared how important this was in terms of finances, many felt that work was just not something they could contemplate, especially if they were on an intensive treatment plan which might require daily appointments at the hospital.

Some amazing entrepreneurial suggestions were put forward about ways to earn money but very many of us simply felt we did not have the energy to invest in anything other than trying to keep up with our usual routines and staying as well as we could.

Our discussion highlighted that being able to remain in work could be very beneficial, allowing normality and earnings to be maintained. But this comes at a price, we can feel exhausted if we can't take time off and we need to manage our energy and the expectations of those around us. A few of us had critical illness cover and income protection which had been an enormous help, but it's important to check the small print to check the limits of cover.

Being able to access to advice from knowledgeable and informed advisers, a reduction in outgoings and support from our families were just some of the factors which helped to increase our resilience. Those who were younger, single parents, carers, students, or had multiple health conditions appeared to face considerable adversity. It was clear that the challenges continued in the longer term - we have debts to re-pay, we change or give up careers, we don't pursue promotion, we can find it difficult (or even impossible) to get mortgages and travel insurance costs are high. We continue to worry about what the future holds and how the financial strain will affect us longer term.

If you are a woman living in the UK with a breast cancer diagnosis and you would like to join our private group, please send us a private message via facebook


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