As a single mum to two children, my thoughts rarely, if ever, turned to how I felt but instead focused on survival for them. I had only just found a part-time job that offered the hours that suited our family of three when I found my lump, and my diagnosis meant my employer replaced me because with treatment I wouldnt be able to carry out my job. Simply put, I got cancer and lost my job in the same week.
While trying to take on board how a gruelling treatment plan would impact on all our lives, I also had to face up to being in financial crisis because I didn't have enough money coming in to cover day-to-day living, let alone the extra costs that come with sickness.
In those early days my emotions could range across the spectrum of high spirits to deep lows within an afternoon and it was in a particularly low point I took to this blog and poured out my despair. I've always prided myself on being independent and never asking for help but that particular entry reads like the cries of a wounded animal.
It's thanks to that blog entry I have learnt so much about the help that's out there for people like me and now I want to share it with you. I still remember not knowing where to begin to get help and how terrifying that felt. This isn't a definitive list of the only support available, it's purely a list of the services I have found useful and I plan to add to it as time goes on. It might just offer someone else a good starting point should they find themselves in darker days.
Macmillan- A national charity which doesn't only provide nurses but a wealth of free booklets with topics ranging from how to cope with hair loss, chemotherapy, information on different cancers and also a free cook book. The helpline can also provide general advice on treatment and more in depth advice on financial issues, how to get help with utility costs and also about applied for a grant to help with living costs.
Employment and Support Allowance - Formerly referred to as Disability Benefit and available to those unabe to work due to a serious health condition. After three months, claimants can receive an enhanced payment if they meet certain criteria, such as going through chemo. More information available from Department of Work and Pensions.
PIP Allowance- A benefit available for those whose illness /disability impacts on their daily lives to such an extent they require assistance, which may mean from a carer or in terms of needing a blue badge. You will need a health professional to fill in the paperwork with you. Further information available from Department of Work and Pensions.
Willow- A national charity that provides special days out for people with serious health conditions. A healthcare professional will need to support your application and the charity is only able to offer a number of days out per year.
Look Good, Feel Better- Helping teens and women with the physical effects of cancer, the beauty industry has come together to provide free workshops which show you how to combat chemo redness, draw on realistic brows and disguise lost lashes. Attendees also receive a makeup bag stocked with branded makeup matching their skin tone.
For those local to Tunbridge Wells, The Pickering Cancer Drop-In Centre is an absolute must. The centre provides a friendly ear, a support network, free complimentary therapies and counselling for cancer people and their families.
If you are in debt and are going to struggle with making repayments while receiving treatment, make your creditors aware of your diagnosis. The Money Advice Service can provide a wealth of information and Stepchange, the national debt charity, can help you with budgeting, finding the best solution to help you getting out of debt and most importantly managing that solution for you without adding on fees like debt consolidation agencies.
I used West Kent Debt Advice, a charity local to me which was able to offer the same services as Step change but with the added benefit of offering face to face contact.
As I mentioned earlier, I plan to add to this list as I go and apologies if I have left anyone off at the moment- it's nothing personal but cloudy chemo brain making me forgetful.