As part of a series of personal testimony from people experiencing the cost of living crisis we hear from Karen Bucknall.
As a cancer patient in remission from advanced bowel cancer and endured six 6 weeks of radiotherapy, with six months of chemotherapy and wearing a permanent colostomy bag. I am now living on benefits, including PIP for my disabilities in a small flat above a shop.
I’ve been shielding as a clinically extremely vulnerable person and spend a lot of time in my flat. Where I feel safe and secure and shut off from the harsh reality of catching covid and becoming poorly, hospitalised and could even face death. I have no immune system and the slightest infection makes me ill. With my covid vaccines, I am triple jabbed as well as having the yearly flu jab. I am often feeling the cold and can have unexplainable shivering episodes, I need to keep constantly warm.
My flat is small and cosy and has central heating in all rooms, and an electric oven and hobs. I like cooking, trying out new recipes and eating healthier. With the rise in food bills, I struggle to budget for fresh fruit, vegetables and salad.
As if surviving cancer and coping with a brain tumour and living through a pandemic isn’t bad enough. There is the fear of the cancer returning and getting covid. Now I live with the additional worry of soaring energy fuel bills and how I am going to pay for them.
When the government scrapped the extra lockdown payment, which ended a few months ago. It put my social security household into a financial crisis. That nearly £80.00 every month was a life line towards the energy fuel bill and which meant I could have both central heaters on in the living room and in my bedroom. When the payment suddenly stopped, it left a crippling hole in my fuel budget. Now I have to economise, by only have one central heater on in the living room and only putting the heater on in my bedroom, one hour before bedtime, to take the chill out of my freezing bedroom.
In my living room, I have blankets, cushions, a fleece duvet and pillows, where I can snuggle down on my settee, all nice and snuggly whilst watching tv . I do this to save money on my fuel bill.
I live in fear of it getting very cold, with snowy wintry showers, forcing me to put the heating on full and for long periods. Now frequently stressing over, how I am going to pay for it? When I should be concentrating on getting well again after my cancer and getting myself fit and healthy to return back to work. It is a vicious circle of fuel poverty, mixed with living with the cancer returning and the low grade brain tumour affecting my quality of life.
The government doesn’t care about cancer patients and those in remission. We are often the hidden away and forgotten members of society. Who want to make the most of the time we have left, making the most of our fractured lives impacted by cancer and look at creating new memories with our loved ones. We want to have our affairs in order, to do things on our bucket lists and to feel warm and safe in the sanctuary of our own homes. No cancer patient or those in remission should be worrying about where the money will come from to pay their fuel bills.
I do worry that many cancer patients are spending the end of their lives, or in remission from cancer, in a cold, damp and often uncomfortable home. With not having the basic heating they need. Therefore suffering during the winter, with wearing extra layers of clothing and unnecessarily shivering under their blankets or duvets, often hugging their hot water bottles for that extra comfort and warmth. Where is the dignity in that, cancer patients freezing in their homes, deciding what is more important fuel or food?
The lockdown extra allowance, was a lifeline for many cancer patients to heat their homes sufficiently and pay their heating bills on time . After all they have been through a lot and their basic principle is to keep warm, eat healthily and look after themselves both mentally and physically and trying to rebuild their lives again.
Why are we being punished by the government for having cancer? Often left with disabilities due to the illness and unable to work. Many of us before getting cancer were professional people, with degrees and had good well paid jobs. We didn’t ask to get cancer and suffer, as we did nothing wrong, I guess we just got unlucky. We often feel like a burden on society and to our loved ones , when we just want a better quality of life.