2007 - 2022

Fuel Poverty: Cancer Person in Remission

As part of a series of personal testimony from people experiencing the cost of living crisis we hear from Karen Bucknall.
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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.

Comments (3)

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  1. Squigglypen says:

    You are most certainly NOT a burden to society. You are part of the clan … we all need help at some time. Unfortunately Westminster are not part of the clan and never will be.
    Good wishes for the future. Stay warm and bugger the bills.

    1. Joe Killman says:

      Very well said Sqiggly. Spoken for all of us. Thanks.

  2. SleepingDog says:

    Successful technology for heating homes is evident from archaeology of the Stone Age, and must have been effective during the last Ice Age too. But then humans might have been cooperating more collectively.

    One might think if sabre-toothed tigers cared for their sick and disabled members, it might not be beyond humans. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-021-99853-1

    The people who create the real burdens are the rich who consume much more than normal people, whose environmental footprint and corresponding damage is huge by comparison, and whose lifestyles depends on the exploitation of the many.

    Whatever government policy is, helping others is a normal (if not universal) social behaviour at least among the non-elite. This is something very basic, as noted in Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments. By imagination, we place ourselves in position of others.

    In terms of fearing oneself a burden, this is to one’s credit not to hold a set of beliefs on the basis that they are convenient (as occurs even on Bellacaledonia, with poets claiming that poets are truthtellers, world-travellers decrying borders, religionists with uncritically positive views of their own religion and co-religionists, and so forth). But without others to care about, we would not have ethics, and the world would be a much poorer place for that. Ethics needs opportunities. And there are many kinds of positive work; one of which is to testify to conditions we should be paying more attention to, as in this article. Indeed, if we consider humans as a global superorganism, one of the fundamental roles of each human node is to process information (perhaps localised or specialised) and help others make sense of our super-complex world, and make better collective decisions as a result. And virtually everybody can contribute in this manner. Which they can do better without being subjected to unnecessary stress. Being safe and warm at home with access to healthcare is not a big ask.

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