Photo of Avril Campbell, leukaemia survivor

The Real Cost of Cancer: Avril's story

Avril’s husband Eugene was a full-time carpenter, involved in the local GAA and a very active community man when he was diagnosed with CLL in 2014. It changed their lives forever.

Avril had been working in catering and both she and Eugene both had to give up work upon diagnosis. Their loss in earnings was over €50,000 a year and they came under huge financial strain. 

Avril and Eugene have three children, the youngest being 11 at the time of diagnosis and the family had to survive on Eugene’s illness benefit and Avril’s half-time carer’s allowance, which combined brought in a total of €323.30 per week.

This had to cover the mortgage, extra heating bills, parking and food while in the hospital, special dietary requirements for Eugene and general day to day living for her and her children.

Avril didn’t qualify for a full-time carer’s allowance because of Eugene’s sick pay and says if she did this would have bought her dinners for the week. They didn’t qualify for a medical card until two years into Eugene’s diagnosis when he was then in a wheelchair.

She remembers hoping she wouldn’t meet anyone when doing her weekly shop because she was constantly counting out what everything cost and making sure she had enough money for it. 

The family ended up having to take in students to cover their mortgage, all while Eugene was undergoing treatment, putting further pressure on everyone. Family helped them so much and friends held a race night to fundraise for them.

They found meals left on their porch, vouchers for Smyth’s in the run-up to Christmas and a very generous donation from Eugene’s former employer and workmates – all to help them get through their financial difficulties caused by cancer.  

Sadly Eugene passed away last year and Avril says it is the support of friends and family that gets you through cancer.

The pressure of dealing with cancer almost matched the pressure of potentially losing their home and she says she still does not know how they managed to keep a roof over their heads.