Luton man diagnosed with breast cancer backs Macmillan's urgent appeal - as cancer patients pushed to desperate measures

Information and guidance leaflets from Macmillan Cancer Support. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)Information and guidance leaflets from Macmillan Cancer Support. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
Information and guidance leaflets from Macmillan Cancer Support. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
Charity says some patients are being forced to choose between feeding their children or life-saving appointments

A cancer diagnosis, coupled with the ongoing cost of living crisis, is pushing some patients to extreme measures – including having to choose between feeding their children and going to life-saving appointments.

This is the grim message from Macmillan Cancer Support who are launching an emergency appeal to help support thousands of people with cancer in the East of England who are in financial distress.

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Former IT support worker Alex from Luton is a typical example. He was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer in May. This left him unable to work and with no source of income, other than Universal Credit and Personal Independence Payment.

He says: “Some days I am even unable to leave my room and on others I’m at the hospital having chemotherapy and hormone therapy. My Macmillan nurse put me in touch with the Macmillan Welfare Rights Team and they have helped me understand what I’m entitled to and helped me complete the relevant forms – something I couldn’t have done on my own.”

Macmillan has seen a substantial rise in the number of people contacting its support line with money worries. Many also have significant mental health concerns – an increase of a third compared to the same time last year.

Statistics show that one in five people with cancer in our area are on a low income and that more than a quarter of these have been struggling to pay their basic living costs. Some are being forced to cut back on basic hygiene or cleaning essentials, such as soap and toothpaste.

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Others are neglecting their nutrition and warmth by skipping meals, washing using buckets, or missing hospital appointments

Cancer often comes with a significant and unexpected financial impact – including the extra travel needed to get to and from appointments, higher energy costs to try to stay warm during treatment, or the loss of income because of an inability to work.

Since January, Macmillan has given more than £1 million in grants to more than 2,900 people in the East of England.

Spokesperson Richard Manson, who talks every day to people being forced to take drastic measure to survive, says: "We’re doing everything we can to provide vital help to those who need it, but we can’t do it alone. We are almost entirely funded by incredibly generous donations and with more support this winter we can reach even more people at a time when they’ve never needed us more.”

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As part of the charity’s Emergency Grants Appeal, Macmillan is launching its first Winter Gift Guide.

This highlights the huge variety of essentials many people need but can’t afford, such as blankets and hygiene products.

Macmillan Grants are one-off payments to help with the extra costs that living with cancer can bring. The charity is urging anyone who can to donate to its Emergency Grants Appeal via the Gift Guide to help Macmillan support even more people living with cancer during the difficult winter ahead.

Visit Macmillan’s website to find out more about the support available.