‘I’m relieved I got cancer last year – now I couldn’t handle the chemo and the energy costs’

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Within a few months their savings were rapidly depleted and Potts was terrified. She found herself constantly checking the thermostat and obsessing over how cold it was getting and how her heating bills would rise. “Neither of us really wanted to claim any benefits,” she says, dabbing tears from her eyes. “We are proud people and we have worked all our lives. We didn’t want to start applying for universal credit. I kept saying, ‘No, I’m getting better and back to work and we’ll be fine, we just have to get through this winter’.

In an act of desperation, she called Macmillan. At the end of her tether, all Potts expected now was a listening ear.

“A very nice operator answered the phone,” she says. “We talked for almost two hours and they gave me all sorts of advice and help, then offered me £350 for our gas and electricity and £350 for our transport. It was a godsend. They helped when I needed it most. I was in the darkest headroom I’d ever been in and that help helped me breathe.

“Without the money for the energy bill, I don’t know if I would have earned it back. I needed that warmth.”

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While the charity is best known for its consultancy services and for helping fund cancer nurses in hospitals, a lesser-known part of Macmillan’s work is providing financial support to patients. It operates financial and energy advice hotlines that can offer advice and grants to help patients make ends meet.

Potts went back to chemotherapy on Nov. 24 and completed her last cycle on Dec. 15. This was followed by a full hysterectomy on January 12, after which she was declared cancer-free. Unfortunately, in June 2022, the doctors called again with devastating news: A scan for one of her blood clots had revealed two tumors in her pelvis, and she had surgery again on August 17 to remove them.

As things stand, Potts is being monitored and on medication for ovarian cancer, and will continue to do so for the next 2-3 years. By then, doctors hope she will be cancer-free again.

In the short term, however, Potts is more concerned than most about the cost-of-living crisis. “It’s scary to watch,” she says. “The thing you think about is, ‘I have to beat this disease, I have to do whatever the hospital staff tell me’, but at the same time you can’t have the heating on all day, because the reality is that it costs too much.

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“The grants Macmillan gave me totaled £700, which was enough for trips to the hospital and to pay our utility bill for six months. This year I don’t know how far it would go. Sometimes I think it’s a relief that I got cancer last year because I don’t know how I would cope if I had chemotherapy now.”

On Macmillan’s advice, Potts disclosed her diagnosis to British Gas, who cut her bills. Still, Potts pays twice as much as last year for heating.

Many other cancer patients are facing hardships this year. Research by Macmillan found that an estimated 2 million people (66 percent of all cancer patients) were worried about paying for food in the coming months. Already, one in five struggles to pay basic living expenses.

The study also found that the cost-of-living crisis has caused at least 20,000 cancer patients to postpone or cancel their medical appointments. Macmillan estimates that a cancer diagnosis currently costs an extra £900 per month on average, on top of a patient’s usual expenses.

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“The help I received was the greatest relief I’ve felt in my life,” says Potts. “To have that person make the time for me, who wouldn’t judge me, who went out of his way to help me… I just have the utmost respect for Macmillan.”

So much so that Potts hosted a coffee morning with her neighbors from her hospital bed to raise money for charity. She had hoped to raise £150 and ended up making £2,000 by bringing her friends and neighbors together for charity.

‘You don’t really understand the value of a charity like Macmillan until you see it first hand; when you [see] what it’s like to live with cancer and not be able to afford your heating bills or your food. Now I understand.”


Go to to donate to Macmillan Cancer Support through The Telegraph Christmas Charity Appeal 2022 www.telegraph.co.uk/2022appeal

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