Woman highlights 'price tag' of cancer diagnosis

Lesley Millar (inset) received support the Macmillan financial guidance team following her diagnosis

Lesley Millar (inset) received support the Macmillan financial guidance team following her diagnosis - Credit: Macmillan/Lesley Millar

A woman has spoken out over the financial impact of cancer after she was forced to leave work when she began treatment. 

Lesley Millar, 45, was made redundant during the coronavirus pandemic but then had to leave her new role as a hamper packer when she began breast cancer treatment in February 2021. 

Lesley Millar, 45, had to leave work due to her breast cancer treatment

Lesley Millar, 45, had to leave work due to her breast cancer treatment - Credit: Lesley Millar

She said: "I wanted to keep working when I was diagnosed but the fatigue of chemotherapy and being told to self-isolate made it impossible.

"I was left without an income and terrified I would lose the house I share with my daughter.

"On top of that, I had to face the price tag cancer came with, including driving 40 minutes to hospital appointments, and buying new bras following my lumpectomy and hats to cover my hair loss."

Research by charity Macmillan Cancer Support shows patients in Suffolk face a financial burden of nearly £800 per month following diagnosis. 

Four out of five people in the region are hit with a "cancer price tag" that reaches £791 per month, according to the charity. 

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In Suffolk, this could represent more than 23,000 people who have to face the financial impact of the disease. 

The charity is encouraging people to access its specialist support to help ease that financial burden. 

Macmillan's research also shows there are still thousands of people with cancer in the region struggling to pay basic living costs because of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Cancer patients can contact Macmillan’s financial teams for welfare rights advice, Macmillan grants, energy advice, work support, insurance guidance, pensions guidance, mortgage guidance, estate planning and debt queries. 

Richard Manson, from Macmillan's financial guidance team

Richard Manson, from Macmillan's financial guidance team - Credit: Macmillan

Richard Manson, from the charity's financial guidance team, said cancer has a "huge impact" on people's finances, and the situation has been exacerbated by Covid-19. 

"We're speaking to people who have that impact every day. We're very much here to support people in that situation. 

"Quite often, people aren't aware of the what help they are entitled to. A lot of people don't know that they might be able to do something with their pension, or aren't aware that they might be able to access benefits and all these other things. 

"So the best thing is, even if you are unsure, seek support and help and we'll do the rest."

Lesley Millar (right) with daughter Charly

Lesley Millar (right) with daughter Charly - Credit: Lesley Millar

Ms Millar, from Cambridge, was able to access support after she was put in touch with the Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire Macmillan Benefits Advice Service, which is funded by Macmillan and hosted by Suffolk County Council.

"Macmillan helped me sort out my benefits, reduce bills with my energy supplier and get on a special priority list with my water company," she said.

"Macmillan has been my rose in a garden of thorns - I can’t thank them enough.”

The Macmillan support line can help people who been diagnosed with cancer 

The Macmillan support line can help people who been diagnosed with cancer - Credit: Macmillan

Carrie Whitham, head of operations for money and work support at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: "Even before Covid-19 we were receiving more and more calls to our support line from people living with cancer, worried about the financial impact of their diagnosis.

"The pandemic has supercharged these concerns. Every day now we are hearing from people who have felt the financial impact of the Universal Credit cut, rising energy bills or the end of furlough, often making them more anxious about their finances than their health.

"People with cancer need to live, not just survive and Macmillan’s specially trained teams are on hand, every day, pushing to make sure people get the support they need and deserve.”

People can contact the charity’s financial teams on 0808 808 0000 seven days a week.

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