I have cancer and can’t afford food, heat or rent because of spiralling cost of living

A YOUNG woman with cancer has told how she can't afford food, heat or rent because of the spiralling cost of living.

Lara Burwell, 30, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2019 and is undergoing treatment.

The former nursery worker from Somerset has said that she and her partner "can't afford life anymore" no matter what they cut back on to save cash.

Lara said: "I have overwhelming anxiety as all the money worries add up, and on top of this I am so fearful about how our standard of living will affect my cancer recovery.

"We’ve completely cut out heating, which is horrible as my treatment means I get really cold, but even with that saving I’m not sure we can afford the rent anymore."

She also said that the cost of petrol and parking when going for treatment at the hospital three times a week is mounting up.

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Lara is not alone. Around a third of cancer patients have resorted to wearing coats or dressing gowns indoors in an effort to stay warm without spending more, according to Macmillan.

And one in four diagnosed with the disease say they are buying less food or making fewer hot meals, exclusive research for The Sun reveals.

John Hughes, 56, a cancer patient form Birmingham told The Sun he eats cold baked beans from the can as he can't afford to heat up his dinner.

“It’s been so bad that I’ve thought about ending it all. I don’t know how much more I can take,” he said.

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“I get up, have a wash and some days I just want to go back to bed, but I force myself to keep going.

“It’s disgusting having to eat cold tinned food. It tastes and feels vile.

“I’ll be screwing my face up just trying to swallow it.

“I’ve eaten beans, spaghetti hoops, mushy peas and even cold tins of beef in gravy.”

And Ruth, 56, a life coach from Norfolk, said she's at breaking point dealing with the rocketing cost of living after going through breast cancer treatment during the pandemic.

“Going through chemo during lockdown, physically and mentally wiped me out.

“Now I’m at a breaking point having to deal with the skyrocketing cost of living.

“My wifi and phone bill have gone up £20 this month and with petrol being so expensive, I’m losing out on social contact.

“I’m having to stay at home as much as possible and not use the car unless it’s an essential journey. 

Ruth said she’s had to cash in savings that were meant for her retirement and now feels like she is “running out of options” for covering her bills. 

Both John and Ruth have received help from the Macmillan to help with bills.

The cancer charity has made an extra £3.5million in cash grants available to those living with cancer amid the cost of living crisis, which has seen energy bills and other essentials shoot up.

Macmillan Cancer Support said its advisers are making more referrals to food banks than ever before.

Dr Anthony Cunliffe, Macmillan national clinical adviser for primary care, said: "At a time when people living with cancer need their health to be their priority, it's devastating to hear the toll the cost-of-living crisis is taking on the wellbeing of so many people.

"Nutrition, warmth and hygiene are all vital in keeping people with cancer well enough for treatment and aiding their recovery, and to hear that people are being forced to deprive themselves of these essentials is hugely concerning.

"I'd urge anyone affected by cancer who has concerns or questions about the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on their health and wellbeing to get in touch on Macmillan's Support Line. We're here to make sure you get the support you need."

Grants if you're struggling with bills

As well as Macmillan, other organisations including charities can also help you pay some or all of your bill, or pay off arrears.

There are around 8,000 charities and organisations in the UK that offer cash to help struggling families.

Turn2Us has a free grants search tool so you can find out what help is available to you.

Cancer charity Macmillan recently made an extra £3.5million of grants available to those living with cancer.

It's also worth checking you're getting all the benefit's you're entitled to, especially if you've had a change of circumstances.

The quickest way to see what benefits you may be able to claim is to use one of the three benefit calculators recommended by Gov.uk.

Each one is free to use. They are: 

  • Turn2us
  • Policy in Practice
  • entitledto

More help with energy bills

In the first instance it's best to speak to your supplier directly if you are struggling to pay your bill or are worried about falling behind.

It's best to do this sooner rather than later as failed direct debit payments could cost you extra and affect your credit score.

Many suppliers run their own schemes offering help, or have charitable trusts to help pay arrears.

You could get money through this if you're struggling and you won't have to pay it back.

For example, British Gas and Octopus both have funds to help households who are struggling to pay.

What's available depends on your supplier, and not all offer them while others may have closed applications due to high demand.

Your local council may also be able to help with cash and grants if you are struggling with bills through the Household Support Scheme

How much you can get depends on where you live. The scheme was extended in March, so if you missed out last time, you've got another chance to apply.

For instance Runnymede council in Surrey was giving out £150 through the household support fund earlier this year.

To see what's available where you are, and to apply, you'll need to check your local council.

You can search for yours using the search tool on gov.uk – just enter your postcode.

Local councils also offer welfare assistance schemes all year round that can help you with bills.

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If you're worried about paying bills, falling behind or are in debt, there are plenty of organisations where you can seek advice for free, including:

  • National Debtline – 0808 808 4000
  • Step Change – 0800 138 1111
  • Citizens Advice – 0808 800 9060

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