A Dromore man has thanked Macmillan for giving him a grant that helped him heat his home after treatment for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma left him feeling cold and shivery.
Aaron Branker spoke after it was revealed people living with cancer face a ‘triple threat’ due to the cost of living crisis, Covid-19 and the financial fallout of their diagnosis.
Last year, Macmillan Cancer Support gave over £72,000 to around 208 people living with cancer in the Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough (ABC) Council area.
As many cancer patients on low-incomes struggle with the financial fallout of a diagnosis, compounded by the current cost of living crisis and Covid-19, Macmillan is urging anyone in need to seek their support.
Macmillan Grants helped those in the ABC Council area pay for essentials such as heating bills and hospital transport costs, after they were diagnosed with cancer or underwent cancer treatment.
A cancer diagnosis often brings increased and unexpected living costs, such as requiring wigs or post-surgery clothing, a new bed for someone who can no longer climb the stairs to their bedroom, or fresh bedding for those experiencing incontinence and other treatment side-effects.
Research by Macmillan found that more than nine in ten people living with cancer in Northern Ireland (96%) reported a financial impact from their diagnosis.
However, one of the biggest expenses facing people with cancer is higher energy bills. Many people undergoing cancer treatment need to have the heating on for longer periods due to the side-effects of radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
With domestic energy prices continuing to rise, this year could present a triple threat for people living with cancer, who are already struggling with the financial impact of their diagnosis and the repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In recognition of the extraordinary challenges facing cancer patients in 2022, Macmillan has made an extra £3.5 million of emergency funds available to help people living with cancer in the UK pay escalating fuel bills.
In the first six weeks of the year, Macmillan has provided over £80,000 in grants to support vulnerable patients in Northern Ireland who are struggling financially – an increase of 14% on the same time period last year.
Aaron Branker, from Dromore, explained why his Macmillan grant provided such a lifeline after being diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at the start of this year.
Aaron said: “When I was in hospital, my Macmillan nurse told me that I might be eligible for a Macmillan grant and passed on the phone number for the Macmillan Benefits Service in Northern Ireland. The process was really simple.
“I used the grant to heat my house as my treatment left me feeling very cold and shivery at times. It meant that I could switch the heating on without worrying so much about it.
“If anyone reading this is in a similar position, I’d tell them to get in touch with the Benefits Service straight away.
“I know that people worry about asking for help, especially when it comes to money, and you always think there’s someone worse off than you, but Macmillan were there for me.”
Robert Cairns is a local Macmillan Benefits Service Advisor employed by Community Advice Craigavon who works in partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support.
He said of the additional challenges in 2022: “It’s been an incredibly tough few years for people living with cancer.
“Covid-19 continues to cause great challenges for the clinically vulnerable and now cancer patients are having to contend with a cost of living crisis that has seen prices for fuel and food rocket.
“The Macmillan Benefits Service in Northern Ireland is here to help. If you or someone you know is in need of our support, contact us today.
“Our service is available in every Health Trust, and our advisors are working to help people living with cancer access the support they need.”
Across the UK, Macmillan gave over £12.3m to over 33,000 cancer patients in 2021. Macmillan grants are a one-off, means tested payment of £350 to help with the extra costs that living with cancer can bring. Anyone over 18, who has been diagnosed with cancer or undergoing treatment can apply.
Macmillan Cancer Support is doing whatever it takes to make sure every person living with cancer gets the help they need.
To find out more about Macmillan grants, including who can apply, call the Macmillan Benefits Service in Northern Ireland 0300 1233 233 and talk to one of the charity’s local advisors.