The Reality Of Cancer Related Poverty In 2018

Poverty in the UK in 2018? Of course it exists, and appears to be on the increase from all the signs I see! The gap between rich and poor seems to be growing constantly now. That is a massive issue for us in this day and age, and is something I never believed I would still be seeing as an ageing man. This world is a harsh place when you have no money. I can speak from experience here. As a youngster my father moved out, and left my mother with massive debt. We had debt collectors constantly knocking on the door, and I had to leave school to start earning an income.

I was lucky! That experience was positive for me, and I worked night and day after that to ensure my family would never feel so vulnerable ever again. It was going well until I got sick in 2007 and was told I could not work for at least a year! That was a disaster at the time as I was self-employed and didn’t earn if I wasn’t working. Fortunately my wife was earning but our total household income was cut in half immediately. The house, the cars, the phones etc still needed paying, none of the institutions interested that I had incurable cancer. 

My body was facing some terrible treatment and all I could think about was how I could pay the bills! That vulnerability I feared had returned, and on top of that my body was in a terrible state physically. If my wife was not earning we would have lost our house and many other things. I have not been able to work since, but my business skills have enabled me to keep the family ship afloat.  For many, the reality of cancer related poverty is much worse. This is one side effect of cancer which is rarely discussed with the seriousness it deserves. A lot of families only have one income as standard so if this is lost because of cancer, you can see the problems immediately. This is the main reason that we started simPal. We can’t help with a lot of the finances, but we can help with mobile communication costs. 

Below is just one example from our recent batch of applications for support. 

“I have a couple in a serious financial problem.

The couple have a going contract – one is a phone and sim, one is just a sim contract. XX are unable to help them as the phone broken is not the one on contract.

The gentleman was working self-employed, full time until his partner was diagnosed with Breast Cancer (stage 3)  which has metastasised to the lymph nodes. He has since, over the past 10 months become her full time carer and has had to slowly give up work. He has gone from working 50-hour weeks to barely being able to work 8 hours per week. If he doesn’t work, they don’t get paid. They also have a 17 year old son. Last month they earnt £240. They are in financial crisis. Some months they haven’t even been able to pay their rent. They have been accessing a local food bank and we have provided them with a food parcel however they are only able to access one more food parcel before these stop. They are struggling to pay for cleaning items, this is a necessity they need to keep the property free from bacteria and germs due to her diagnosis and low immunity. The constant cost of travelling to and from the hospital is a financial drain and struggle, including the cost for driving to and from work, when he is able.

The lady has had her Chemotherapy treatment stopped. This this due to a nasty infection in her surgery site from her breast reconstruction. She is currently battling two blood clots in her lung and a lung infection. There the gentleman is not able to leave her for long periods of time as she can need his help to move around. She is struggling to breath and in constant pain.

The lady has had to give her phone to her partner so he is able to use this for work which means she has been left without a phone. This means she does not have the ability to call for help if left home alone.

We are concerned that she isn’t able to call for help, especially due to her recent hospital admissions to A&E due to her difficulty breathing and blood clots.”

There are charities that give one off grants, but nothing that will touch these long term issues. These people need more than cash. They need proper practical help to try and get their lives back on track. Surviving cancer is one thing but surviving a life living WITH cancer is something totally different. We ALL deserve so much better than this current ‘system.’ Where is this cancer support that we hear so much about in the media? 

As always, these are my personal views and experiences, please feel free to share your own below. 


  1. Hi Chris, my daughter and I are lucky enough to both work, my mother is a pensioner and was diagnosed with late stage metastatic cancer last month. I don’t drive, neither does my daughter, so the main way to get Mum to and from appointments before the diagnosis was for me to take leave (mostly unpaid) from work to get her there and back by cab.

    Due to the deterioration in her health, Mum’s since been allowed patient transport which has helped reduce travel costs – it’s cheaper for me to take the bus than cabs. She starts a three weekly cycle of ongoing treatment tomorrow, plus will need to attend for blood tests ahead of treatment, so that’s two separate appointments for treatment every three weeks. This may extend her life by up to two years – it’s really an unknown – and she feels she should go alone because she worries I’ll lose my job / what it’s costing me.

    My employer’s been very good about this to be fair and I’m looking at where I can cut costs each month. I feel very sorry for those with major financial struggles because of cancer. Not enough, if anything, is done to address this so simPal is such an important service for reducing both costs and isolation for cancer patients.

    Best wishes to you and your family, Deb xx

    • Hiya Deb, So sorry to hear your latest news about Mum. You above anyone is so aware that cancer doesn’t only affect the person who has it. So many family and friends are brought into the picture. This story is becoming increasingly common where people give their time to look after others, creating increasingly tougher financial issues for all. With the benefits situation in such a mess, people are finding it harder and harder to cope.

      The charities that give grants, generally involve complex for filling for a fairly minimal amount, and are in most cases a relatively trivial sum, which is not aimed at long term support. We need much more practical help for these families, but I don’t see that anywhere! Nobody likes to ask for help and people don’t until they are desperate. It should not be like this in 2018!

      I wish the best for you all at this very difficult time. You know where we are, Chris XXX

      • Thank you Chris. X

        Mum ended up in Resus most of the day from midnight after her treatment on the Monday and was moved to the High Dependency Unit under the Critical Care Team from the Tuesday night when I was asked to gather the family to see her as her heart was being constricted by fluid and they had to go in to drain it which was a high risk procedure.

        Amazingly Mum pulled through and has been on a ward this week since late Monday! None of us are sure yet whether she’ll come home, but she can’t walk unaided nor has the physical strength now to look after herself so she’s going to need care.

        This is four years since we lost my father to late stage cancer so it’s a huge shock. It means a lot that I know where I can find support, so thank you again.

        Deb xx

  2. Very true! Nobody really talks about this. As a society we could acknowledge this and do so much more. Also as a community we could cook healthy meals and provide vegetables. Food banks sadly only provide processed foods. Cancer healing requires fresh produce. Perhaps instead of putting money into the tins of the large charities we could give our money to provide for essentials like food and heating.
    I think many would rather give to that. ❤️

    • Hi Beverley. As we both know there can be so much impact created by a cancer diagnosis. All the giants rarely mention the really long term complex stuff, but it doesn’t go away! I believe we need a completely different way of looking at the problem. Currently there are so many organisations doing a bit with nothing really coordinated and everyone leaving the tricky stuff. This will not be solved by benefits, and your suggestions are certainly a place to start. This is unfortunately a society issue. Thank you for all the work you do around these issues. XXX

  3. Shared this from my friend Chris’s Cancer Community – who is doing fantastic work raising more awareness of the financial impact and the after affects of living in remission!! Definitely time to get Chris back on my show me thinks… #cancersupport

    • Thanks so much for sharing Jac! Unfortunately these issues are real and something I experience daily with the work we do at YoursimPal Always delighted to catch up with you, and thank you for your fab support. It would be an honour to come on the show at any time! XX

  4. Sadly this is true! When families are hit by Cancer we don’t think about the poverty and hardship it can cause for sufferers and their families!

    • Probably like a lot of things Ingrid, we don’t understand it until it affects us and our family. Cancer is very complex, not just the disease itself but the impact on our lives. Each experience is unique!

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