Monday, 12 September 2011

The Financial Side of cancer.

Finances are usually considered a private affair, although I have never understood why tbh. I think that the more money you have, the more private it is. Perhaps that's why I have never understood the privacy of it all....because I have never had squillions. Ady and I have always has enough to live on. We are not materialistic people at all and don't understand the need for the latest in this and the poshest in that. We have never charged as much as we possibly can for the work we do, we just charge enough for what we need. 
Ady is  pretty uninsurable as far as any sickness cover and critical illness cover goes, so we have never bothered. We did look into it once, and it would have cost us an absolute fortune in monthly payments...hundreds of pounds, for very little return if we needed it.

I am going to talk about the financial implications that cancer has on not only us, but I expect other cancer patients too. I want to talk about this because I don't think people give the financial side of cancer much thought, unless you are directly affected by it.
Peoples immediate thoughts when someone has cancer is usually, 'Christ, when is he going to die, how long have they got', 'what are they going to do with the kids', how much are they telling the kids' 'kids shouldn't know, it will be too upsetting' 'He must think positive' , 'will the wife be alright on her own without him' know the sort of stuff...I have thought these things too at other people ! I wonder how many people sit and think ' wow, he is the main bread winner...without his wages coming in to pay the bills, they are pretty fucked'.

So, not only do you have the worry of your husband having cancer and worrying about how long he will live, will he be in pain, what will the treatment be like and what treatment will he have, is it contained, has it spread, then worry about the children and how they will cope, should we tell them all of it, should we keep some back, should we not tell them at all, you get the gist...Ady then has the worry that he wont be able to provide for his family and that he is somehow letting us all down ...the main wage earner, suddenly isn't earning anything.

I have to make sure the children are OK and that their suffering is limited to a minimum, and I have to support Ady through his illness and I also have the worry of how I am going to put food on the table, keep the children clothed and the bills paid.

People have said to me 'That's ok, you can just go on benefits' 'Charlotte had better get a paper round' (she was 11 then). 'You will be amazed at how much you can get in benefits' they say, 'I know so and so who is raking it in' ...'such and such pays no rent AND has a flat screen TV and they are on benefits'.

When Ady had his colon cancer, I made a claim for benefits which I did over the phone. It took about 45 minutes and the lady was very nice and helpful.
Because we are self employed, I had to produce 6 months of accounts, and give an estimate of the next 6 months earnings. Within a few weeks, we were paid £65.45 into our account each week...yes that’s right, £65.45.
This was for the first 13 weeks. After that, they wanted to interview Ady to see if he was fit enough for work. This is a man who had just come out of hospital after having had major abdominal surgery.
We spoke to the surgeon who wrote a letter to the benefits people and said he is in no way fit for work and wont be for a while. They then upped his benefit to £120 a week and placed him in the ‘support group’
Along side this, I made a claim to our local council for council tax benefit. Again, I had to produce a set of accounts, and they said we didn’t have to pay council tax.
I had to contact the tax credit people to tell them of the change in circumstances.
We lost all of our working tax credit and just received child tax credit.
Now we were not getting the working part of the tax credit, we could apply for free school meals, which we got.

So, we went from earning a nice living and having a comfortable life, able to do a weekly shop at Sainsburys without worrying too much about prices, clothes when we needed, bills paid on time etc, you know, all the things one takes for granted, to living on about £550.00 benefit money a month, plus my small earnings of a few hundred.

I calculated that we, a family of four, were managing on about £900. Per month. Out of that money, I have to feed us all, pay the mortgage, heating, water, phones, food, clothes, loans...the list goes on.

We were going to pay off our mortgage in 4 years, but I have had to lengthen the term to another 25 years so we can afford the monthly payments and we don’t lose our house.

I am now getting up early on a Saturday to go to the market where I buy all our fruit, veg, meat and bread for the week. I plan our meals down to the last slice of bread and we are managing on about £50- £60 per week on food for all of us. Thank God I did my catering exams years ago and know how to cook from scratch !

We cant get housing benefit, because we own our own home, but can get the interest paid on the mortgage after 13 weeks I think.

I understand that if I work over 24 hours a week, then we get sweet FA.No benefits at all.

Now Ady has his new diagnosis, we have to go through the whole lot again.
I phoned the benefits people up and they told me that we are still in the system so they had to send a form for us to fill in. We can possibly do what they call a ‘rapid reclaim’. You can do this if you are reclaiming within 6 months of your last claim, which we are.
The form is 52 pages long....that’s right, fifty two !
Anyway, I have done it, and hope they do do a rapid reclaim and put Ady straight back on the support bit without pissing about with interviews (scuse the pun).
I have told them there is no change in our financials and hours of work, but no doubt they will want 6 months of accounts again !

I have the 31 page council tax form to fill out, plus the form they will give me for self employed people when I see them.
Then I have to sit on the phone for hours telling the tax credit people all about it, and also the free school meals people.
All the while Ady is in hospital recovering from surgery and I am on my own with the kids.

This is the way it is when you have cancer and need to live on benefits.

I went to Primark last Sunday and bought slippers and hot water bottles for the winter, because we wont have the heating on very much, just enough to take the chill off, but we are lucky, we have an open fire in the sitting room where we can keep warm and dry the washing.
Macmillan are there if I need a new washing machine, cooker or fridge...they have a fund especially for these types of things, thank fully.

People tend to think about the medical side of cancer, they don’t really give much thought to the day to day living and financial side...why would you, I never did until it now.

This is not a plea for donations AT ALL.
I want to be truthful in this blog about ALL aspects of cancer. The worrying, the waiting, the ups and downs.
The financial side is a big part of it and not something that is publicised or talked about very much, I don’t think.
We will get through, cos I will make sure we do J


  1. Why on earth do we pay NI & all the other taxes *shakes head and wanders off feeling very lucky indeed*

  2. What a crock of shite (excuse the pun)
    i sometimes wonder where the money actually goes in this country that is paid in Taxes....

  3. another great installment. Living on benefits myself I know and understand just how hard it is to do, it must be so stressful when also dealing with cancer in the family. Personally I have never understood people saying 'so and so is on benefits and there is nothing wrong with them and they are creaming it in' yea right, if I had a pound for every time I heard that, in reality it just doesnt work like that. Hope this makes people take note, benefits are no lifestyle choice, it is not easy to live nor easy to claim even when suddenly finding yourself in dire straights and desperately need the system as in this case. Hats off to you Emma, I manage, I cant imagine having to explain to children that they suddenly cant have this or that (although I know your girls are very sensible and well rounded) or planning the meals so meticulously for a whole family. Its all just another huge stress that you really shouldnt have to deal with right now.

  4. My friend has the same as your husband. He has got a car from Motability - might be worth looking into.