Side effects of cancer treatment: financial problems

One Million Pounds Sterling

You know how you can never leave a lottery syndicate, because the week after you stop paying up, the syndicate will win a multi-million pound jackpot? Well, for the same reason I made two huge financial mistakes before cancer.

This will have to be be my last post on this paid-for blog site. I’ve simply got to save money and pay off my debts.

Back in the early ’90s, there was a trend for ‘critical illness’ insurance policies. My husband at the time and I were quite enjoying playing at being grown-ups and had excess money to spend on men with laptops who came round your house for various reasons. In our 30s, we both took out critical illness policies just in case we developed diseases, disabilities or had freak accidents at the seaside. I think we paid over £6,000 into these policies and didn’t manage to break even a leg.

A few years later, there was bad press for some of these policies as the later ones had too many exclusions and were refusing to pay out, so, in order to cope with the costs of divorce, I cancelled the policies and decided I would just have to look after my own health, take exercise and not do anything too risky at the seaside.

When I had to extend the mortgage on the house, I also decided to do away with the payment protection insurance. PPI had also had bad press; I could see why a self-employed person might need it, but I worked for a County Council and had superb employee protection – they even offered me a subsidised bicycle so I had no fear of losing my job or needed help with the mortgage.

My two financial decisions saved me about £80 per month, which was fine until I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I should have continued to pay out or at least put money aside, because worrying about money when you are having cancer treatment adds to the difficulties.

My employers paid me for 100 days and then sent me standard letters that go to malingerers with sore knees rather than someone having chemotherapy. My pay would be halved and then zeroed. Friends in the private sector were mostly unsympathetic; I’d been lucky to get anything. The cancer charities do a great job to help people who end up on sickness benefits, but I still earned enough to feed my children, just not enough to pay for the expensive hobbies that they take for granted.

So I rushed back to work full-time as soon as the treatment finished; I enjoy it, but I particularly enjoy the thought of eventually paying off my overdraft and having normal health and normal finances. And that will include a ‘rainy day’ fund.



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