Meinir Siencyn was just 35 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Today, as we publish our No Small Change report, Meinir explains the huge financial impact that cancer can have on people’s lives.
Hearing the news
I was in New Zealand when I first found a lump.
We were in our little van. My partner and I love extreme sports and we were having a great time just travelling around, trying everything.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer on my return to the UK.
I was 35, fit, healthy and fresh from my travels. The shock of hearing that I had breast cancer stopped me in my tracks.
Time off work
In trying to come to terms with my diagnosis, my finances were one of the very first things I worried about.
I knew I would face months of chemotherapy followed by surgery and radiotherapy.
Straight away I found myself panicking, and thinking ‘oh my God, I can’t work’.
As a freelance camera-woman the kit I carry around is huge, the hours are long and the travel is constant. I knew early on that I simply couldn’t keep up with the physical demands of the job.
Eventually I had to cancel the contracts I had worked so hard to line up, and I ended up taking almost a year off work with my treatment and recovery.
I lost my source of income.
Money might not be the first thing to come to mind when people think about cancer, but the impact my illness had on my finances was massive.
When you are living with cancer, there are still mortgage payments to be met, food and clothing to buy, cars to keep on the road and gas or electricity bills to pay.
At one point, the stress and anxiety caused by the financial side of things seemed to outweigh even the worry about cancer itself.
You have pounds-and-pence constantly playing on your mind at a time when you already feel mentally and physically exhausted from your treatment.
There is nothing worse than trying to work out how you are going to keep a roof over your head, or afford to get to your next treatment, at the same time you are coming to terms with your illness.
My friends and family were lifesavers. My mother helped with my mortgage payments. Friends brought round food and care parcels. I don’t know what I would have done without them.
I also received support from Macmillan.
Through their information and support centre which was based where I received my treatment, I was referred to Macmillan’s welfare and benefits advice service.
It immediately helped relieve some of the pressure. I was even given a grant which I used to insure my partner Emyr on my car so he could drive me to my hospital appointments.
Macmillan also helped me apply for Employment Support Allowance. I received £200 every two weeks which helped make a welcome dent in my outgoings.
The fact is there is no good time to receive a cancer diagnosis. Nothing could be more unwelcome, or less easy to predict.
At 35 I simply hadn’t budgeted for losing my ability to work.
Even now, years after my diagnosis and treatment, I’m working crazy hours to rebuild my finances.
For anyone with by cancer, I would tell them to seek financial advice as soon as they can.
There is support available through Macmillan. They can help take some of pressure off and allow you to focus on your recovery.
To find out more visit macmillan.org.uk/moneyworries.