Coping with the financial costs of cancer

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Cancer patients are facing growing debt problems, but help is at hand from support groups including a centre in Tamworth

When Sharon Fox was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009 she did not expect the financial impact it would have.

She originally got the all clear from a test on a growth under her arm, but eventually underwent a mastectomy and reconstruction surgery.

Like many other, Ms Fox, from Tamworth in Staffordshire, was surprised at the impact her illness had on the family finances.

In 2011, Macmillan Cancer Support said it had paid out more than £2.5m to help cancer patients keep the heating on in their homes.


Ms Fox set up an independent cancer centre in October 2010 to offer free support and therapy - and now money advice.

She said: "When I was diagnosed we [her then fiancé] were both working and you go from two incomes down to almost one full-time income.

"Obviously that has a dramatic effect not only on your weekly and monthly outgoings, but also on your lifestyle.

"We had a really good standard of living before I had cancer.... We never really had to worry too much about if we switched the heating on at a particular time or not.

"But then after that six months, we started to shuffle things around and put things onto a credit card....It is easy to get into despair over finances, definitely.

"I'm not good at asking for help, which is why I wanted to set up something like the cancer support centre where it's a really relaxed atmosphere and people can actually come in and feel like they're walking into their own lounge."

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The centre in Tamworth has support groups. advice and also beauty treatments

The "Money Angel" at the Sharon Fox Cancer Centre helps people who are in debt and advises them about housing and council tax benefits and allowances.

After her recovery Ms Fox opened her own business - a fancy dress and wedding hire company.

'A downward spiral'

Macmillan Cancer Support has also teamed up with the Citizens Advice Bureau, including BRANCAB - Bedworth, Rugby & Nuneaton Citizens Advice Bureau in Warwickshire, to help people get the advice they need.

One person who has benefitted from the service in Bedworth is Jane, who does not want to be fully identified.

She said: "[I] don't want to say I'm struggling financially because it's just like a downward spiral, I don't want to be a failure, I want to be there for my kids and family."

Jane has now been using the service for about six months and said going to Macmillan was a "load off my mind". She added: "We're going to come out on top."

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