The Irish Cancer Society is undertaking a major campaign to highlight the financial effect of a cancer diagnosis.
We have gathered a number of case studies from a hospital in Dublin which hightlight the financial worry and practical impact of cancer for cancer patients.
Case Study 1: Maria *
Maria is a 50 year old lady who was diagnosed with breast cancer. She is a single mother of three teenage children. She lives in local authority housing and receives a lone parent allowance. Prior to her diagnosis Maria worked intermittently in casual work throughout the year as she needed to. This work enabled her to supplement her lone parent allowance and survive financially.
After her diagnosis Maria could no longer work. At the same time her lone parent allowance was reduced as her eldest child was turning 18. As of her inability to work Maria became seriously financially stressed.
Maria suffered skin problems as a side effect of her treatment. She needed to take a number of over the counter medications and creams. Although Maria had a medical card over the counter medication is not covered. It put her under financial strain to purchase these items.
Maria also had to take a number of prescription medications. This placed an additional financial burden on her. Maria struggled to pay the prescription charge of €2.50 for each item of medication she needed. (A person with a medical card receives prescription medication for free but must pay €2.50 for every item dispensed up to a maximum of €25.00 per month – cancer patients would often meet this maximum).
Maria became very stressed about affording her eldest son’s upcoming college costs, and had to enter into negotiations with the college about paying them.
Prior to her diagnosis Maria managed her finances very ably, and was very good at budgeting. However, her cancer diagnosis meant she no longer had any disposable income, and could not afford the extra costs associated with her cancer diagnosis. She received a financial aid grant from the Irish Cancer Society.
Case Study 2: Adrian *
Adrian is a married man in his 60s who was diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer. He and his wife are retired, and receive a social welfare pension. They own their own home outside Dublin County. They have good support from their adult children.
At first they had no difficulty travelling to Adrian’s treatment appointments. However, relatively early in his treatment Adrian suffered from side effects that meant he became wheelchair dependent.
Despite their good support network Adrian’s only way to get to his hospital appointments was a wheelchair friendly taxi, which Adrian had to pay for. This put a huge financial strain on the family.
Adrian’s wife was very worried about the taxi costs as they had to travel to their Dublin hospital from their home outside Dublin County.
In order to help them their medical social worker organised a Travel2Care grant from the Irish Cancer Society.
In the end thankfully Adrian’s condition improved slightly and he was able to access a lift with a family friend to his treatment appointments.
Case Study 3: Sofia *
Sofia is a Polish lady in her 40s who had been living and working in Ireland for 10 years at the time of her breast cancer diagnosis.
Although she had been living in Ireland for some time she only had basic English. She was living in rented accommodation and was financially stable prior to her diagnosis. She had good work skills and was independent and able.
Once her treatment started she was no longer able to work and she received the state illness benefit. Sofia could no longer afford her rent and effectively became homeless, staying with friends. After her initial treatment ended the hospital could not contact Sofia for follow up appointments as she had no stable address.
Two years after her initial diagnosis Sofia presented back at the hospital very unwell and it was discovered she had developed metastatic breast cancer.
She was very vulnerable as she was homeless, her illness benefit had run out, and her medical card had expired (most likely as she could not receive correspondence from the medical card unit while she had no fixed address).
She had no income whatsoever. Her medical social worker organised an appointment for her with a welfare office for an urgent needs payment, but the first appointment offered was 4 days away.
With the support of her social worker Sofia has now managed to secure rent allowance and stable accommodation.
Case Study 4: Sarah *
Sarah is a married lady in her 50s who was diagnosed with curative breast cancer. She is a stay at home mum to a teenager and a young child. Her husband works full time but has had to take a number of salary cuts during the recession. Her treatment prospects are very good. They own their own home and have a mortgage.
Prior to her diagnosis Sarah’s family were already under significant financial strain as of her husband’s salary reductions. They didn’t have any savings. Prior to her diagnosis Sarah had applied for a medical card and been refused.
Upon diagnosis Sarah was very worried that she would again be refused a medical card. She was concerned about affording a wig. (If you have a medical card you can get an allowance for a wig, but it can be different amounts, depending on your local authority. A wig can cost anywhere from €500-€1200).
Sarah worried about being able to support her children’s social and educational costs. The family had to enter into negotiations with their mortgage providers to reduce the payments. Sarah suffered from insomnia due to her financial worries.
Sarah received financial support from the Irish Cancer Society, and thankfully was granted a medical card, but her family are still struggling to survive financially.
Case study 5: Sean *
Sean is in his 30s and has been diagnosed with advanced testicular cancer. He has three young children. He works full time and his wife works full time also but was on maternity leave at the time of his diagnosis.
Sean has been unable to work since his diagnosis. He has been on paid sick leave. However, the family are very concerned about money as this will not last much longer. Soon he will just be receiving the state illness benefit. Sean was supported to apply for an emergency medical card early in his diagnosis and this relieved some of his stress.
Sean’s treatment is ongoing and at the moment there is no prospect of him returning to work. The family are trying to renegotiate their mortgage. It is not clear if his wife will be able to return to work herself after her maternity leave.
Sean’s cancer diagnosis has put a significant financial burden on the family, and they do not know how they are going to survive in the future.
* names are not real.
If you are affected by cancer and have financial worries, please call the Irish Cancer Society Cancer Nurseline on 1800 200 700.
Date Last Reviewed:
Monday, July 6, 2015
Date Last Revised:
Monday, July 6, 2015