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Children with Cancer > Patient Blogs > Got To Run Mum > Financial Advice in the Midst of a Crisis

About this blog

I’m Terri - mum to two brilliantly bonkers children, actor, director, business owner, wannabe personal trainer, writer, running enthusiast and fundraiser. Long list, right? However I’ve left a huge defining thing till last, that gave me the strength, will and drive to pursue all the others. I’m a mother to a child with special needs who happened to have cancer.

  • Patient Name: Taylin
  • Cancer Type: Wilm’s Tumour
  • Age when diagnosed: 20 months

Financial Advice in the Midst of a Crisis

10th May 2019

family sitting on tree

Here’s the girl we need in times of financial crisis

I was asked if I could write a blog post full of financial tips for those who are taking those first terrifying steps of the cancer journey. They clearly looked at my two overdrafts, recent spout of homelessness and my woefully underpaid self employed position and thought, ‘here’s the girl we need in times of financial crisis!’

If you have come to this blog because you are taking those first steps, I am truly sorry that you are joining this sucky club. It’s not one that any parent ever wants to be part of. I assure you, you will find the strength to get through this. It will somehow reveal courage you never knew you had and show you that children are truly warriors who face adversity with such bravery that your love for them will elevate to levels you never believed possible.

When you are told your child has cancer, the last thing on your mind will be money. But it’s incredible how much your finances will take a knock. From hospital car parking fees, to takeaways (you won’t have time or inclination to cook now) to the inability to work around what must take priority. Cancer already sucked, but you didn’t realised what a financial b**** it was!

Don’t panic.I’m possibly the last person qualified to give financial advice. I failed pretty hard when it came to money during our journey… so in my attempt to steer you clear of the pitfalls we faced I will use our own stumbles along the way. A case of do as I say, not as I do, if you will.

1) Save where you can

If you have been saving for a ‘rainy day’… this is that day! We had very little in our savings account. The phrase ‘pot to piss in’ springs to mind. We barely put anything aside for a rainy day so the very little we did have dried up very quickly. If you are still able to work then please make sure you are saving what you can. Now might be the time to cancel that barely used gym membership or the fancy TV package. You may come to a point when you need that money! If you are lucky to have any sort of savings put aside, be prepared to dip into it and don’t beat yourself up if you have to. You can always build savings back up when things get easier.

2) Be sure you are claiming what you are entitled to

It wasn’t until a while after our cancer diagnosis that I realised there were benefits we were entitled to that we had never claimed. It was actually only when being made homeless that our case worker at the council pointed out that with two children and our low income we should be claiming tax credits- I had never even heard of them before! When I think back to how much these extra deposits would have helped us during Taylin’s cancer treatment I kick myself for having no idea! You may also qualify for DLA (disability living allowance), do look into this. To quote a famous supermarket, every little helps!

3) Don’t be too proud

We have a very supportive family who I’m sure would move mountains for us if they could but we felt very reluctant to ‘fess up to how badly our finances were being affected. I’m sure had we been upfront and honest straight away we could have alleviated a lot of unnecessary stress. Don’t wait till you’re desperate, if you need help, ask! Also, at this time in need, if a family member says there’s no need to pay borrowed money back, accept the offer.

4) Do accept charity

This one is a good follow on from the last. There are so many amazing charities who will become a vital part of your support network. Many will give grants to those undergoing cancer treatment or help you fill in all the complicated paperwork to apply for funds. Charities will provide support that you may not have even considered you might need. One lovely, local charity, Momentum, provided our daughter with music therapy and even the use of a holiday home as we came to the end of her chemotherapy- things that we couldn’t have dreamed of affording at that time but helped so much.This is a pretty good list of charities who may be able to offer you support and is a good starting point, you’ll be amazed at the kindness charities and their workers will show you: https://www.childrenwithcancer.org.uk/help-and-support/

5) Keep track of your outgoings

You will be amazed at how costs add up when you’re in and out of hospital, from work days missed to car parking, to congestion charge payments (if driving in and out of London), to eating food from the hospital canteen. All these costs quickly stack up. If you can, get organised. Bring a packed lunch with you to appointments (better yet, let a friend prep it for you- people want to help but won’t always know how, think about what practical help they could be giving), accept offers to be dropped off at the hospital rather than pay parking fees. Keep track of where your money is going but don’t let thoughts of money be at the front of your mind- you have enough to worry about.

6) Don’t let it spiral

Once you start to dip into the red it’s very easy to think, ‘f*** it!’ I know I did. I was poor anyway so what was another £100 of the overdraft going to do… Don’t let it spiral like this and avoid the use of credit cards to cover costs. This ‘free’ money has to be paid back eventually. Before you build debts, exhaust all other avenues. The true cost of debt will weigh on your mind long beyond the cancer diagnosis. We are still clawing our way out of debt FIVE years after diagnosis. FIVE years of stress, worry and sleepless nights- don’t let that be your future because it sucks. If the debt is inevitable then remember the bigger picture, your child who is battling something that you would exchange anything to take away.

7) If you take time off work, don’t return until you’re ready

Your mental health and well-being is worth far more than your pay packet. If you’re not able to work, and be honest with yourself, then don’t allow anyone to pressure you to return before you’re ready. How this relates to staying afloat may not seem obvious, you’ve got to work to get money, right? But what if you end up crashing and burning and then whether you work isn’t your choice anymore? Take it from our experience. Taking time out of work to adjust to your new world and your role within that will allow you to come back stronger.

8) Talk to your creditors

If you are in any credit agreements and find yourselves struggling to make payments during this time, do talk to your creditors. They may be able to lower the payments you do need to make and take the heat off you, which will allow you to focus on what’s really important at this time.

9) Celebrate but show restraint

You’ll want to throw the biggest party in the world to celebrate when you finally hear the ringing of that bell, you deserve to! Just remember that you will be on this journey long after the bell has been rung. Finding your feet again after cancer can take some time. We threw a massive party for our daughter’s second birthday, she had finished her chemotherapy just a few weeks before and it seemed an apt time to celebrate this. We spent money we didn’t have to make it the party we felt she deserved. Does she remember it… hell no! We could have had a much smaller event which would have still been just as special and saved quite a few pennies in the process.

10) Count your blessings

I can’t tell you that money doesn’t matter, it does and it will inevitably cause extra stress. However your child will show you how incredibly blessed you are, how priceless moments and milestones can be. That there are things that money can never buy. And in those dark times, that will be the light. Hold onto that.

You are in one very unique club from now on. And the toll of the membership fee runs far deeper than any financial cost.What this journey will teach you is that money really isn’t everything. We still have very little money but we have learnt that the most precious memories are made out of the most simple things. I relish nothing more than my family all being together in the outdoors, which costs nothing. Every time we have a lovely day together, which doesn’t have to cost anything, I feel I am truly rich, rich in my blessings, in love and in health.

What more could I ask for?!

 

This article was reproduced by with permission from the author Terri and was originally published on her blog.

Want to share your story? Please email stories@childrenwithcancer.org.uk

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