Charity helps cancer sufferers to pay for essentials

This Is Wiltshire: Sue Williams, Macmillan welfare benefits adviser at Swindon Citizens Advice Bureau Sue Williams, Macmillan welfare benefits adviser at Swindon Citizens Advice Bureau

MORE than 220 cancer patients in Swindon and Wiltshire received financial help from charity Macmillan to cope with the hidden costs of their often drawn-out treatment.

New figures from Macmillan Cancer Support revealed that patients in the region were awarded £67,000 to allow them to buy clothing, bedding and pay for heating and transport, as well as practical household items like washing machines.

And applications for funding continue to increase year on year.

Sue Williams, Macmillan welfare benefits adviser at Swindon Citizens Advice Bureau, said cancer diagnosis brought with it not only emotional distress but many added costs which could lead to patients’ gradual financial isolation.

“Each week I see people with cancer who just do not know how they are going to pay the next fuel bill or their costs for getting to and from hospital for treatment,” she said. “Macmillan grants are a vital way of providing some support to these people, so that they can concentrate on their health rather than worrying about finances.”

Across the UK more patients were helped with clothing than with any other cost arising from their illness. This was followed by grants to help cover energy bills and travel to and from hospital.

The need for new clothing often follows a change in weight or body shape due to the effects of cancer and its treatment, or following surgery. Weight loss is a common symptom of cancer, while certain chemotherapy drugs, steroids, and hormonal therapies can cause weight gain.

Cancer patients may also need different clothes because they have an abdominal swelling, have to adapt to a colostomy bag or need special bras following a mastectomy. As well as being a practical help, providing clothing can help psychologically as ill fitting clothing can be a reminder of a person’s poor health.

Many people living with life-threatening conditions rake up high fuel bills because they spend long periods of time at home during treatment or recovery and often are more prone to feeling cold.

Minimising the risk of infection is important whilst undergoing cancer treatment and this means extra costs for frequently washing clothes, towels and sheets, and for bathing and general hygiene.

Macmillan awarded more than £9.6m to more than 32,500 patients in the UK in 2013. The Macmillan grants programme gives payments to cancer patients who have limited financial resources and are in need of immediate assistance.

“Our latest grants figures are evidence of the financial isolation that can seriously impact people living with cancer,” said Dr Fran Woodard, Macmillan Cancer Support director for England.

“To feel unable to buy the clothes you need to keep warm, for example, is an unacceptable reality for thousands of vulnerable cancer patients at a time when, on average, their income halves and their outgoings rocket.”

Every week, more than 600 people receive a grant from Macmillan Cancer Support.

To continue providing this financial support Macmillan relies on public donations. To donate to Macmillan Cancer Support call 0300 1000 200 or visit macmillan.org.uk/donate For more information about financial support available to patients call 0808 808 0000.

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