Saturday 25 January 2020

'Cancer slaughters your income' - campaigners tell of money shock

Stephen Teap, whose wife Irene died in 2017, pictured with fellow CervicalCheck scandal campaigner Vicky Phelan
Stephen Teap, whose wife Irene died in 2017, pictured with fellow CervicalCheck scandal campaigner Vicky Phelan

CervicalCheck campaigner Stephen Teap has spoken of the financial shock when a member of a family is diagnosed with cancer.

The dad-of-two, whose wife Irene died of from cervical cancer in July 2017, said there is "no feeling worse than being about to pay for your weekly shopping and praying the debit card does not get declined".

Costs outside of treatment can mount up and come at a time when a two-wage family sees their wages drop as one parent battles the disease.

"People talk about outgoings, but your income can be slaughtered," he said.

At the time of Irene's diagnosis the couple were depending on both their wages to pay the mortgage and childcare for their young boys.

"So you have an increase in costs but a decrease in income," Mr Teap added.

His comments follow the Irish Cancer Society's Real Cost of Cancer survey which showed how many cancer patients are facing huge costs and a crippling loss to their earnings, spending more than €1,000-a-month.


The expenses include hospital visits, petrol and parking and came to an average of €291-a -month.

The average cost of medicines was around €261-a-month.

Mr Teap said the family particularly forked out on high hospital car parking charges.

He called for more support measures to ease the burden on families and suggested there should be "a one-stop shop" where they can claim for a carer's allowance, medical card or illness benefit.

The current system sees people having to deal with red tape and bureaucracy at a time when they are trying to focus on recovery.

Following a bereavement and while a spouse is grieving, they also face a drop in tax credits over five years.

The Irish Cancer Society also highlighted the case of Michael Finnegan from Leitrim.

Mr Finnegan was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2015, aged 54. He had been made redundant and set up his own business two years before his diagnosis.

A father-of-six, he had to cease trading as soon as he was diagnosed with cancer. He spent his entire savings - about €10,000 - on bills and getting two of his children through college. His other daughter was doing the junior cert at the time.

His loss of earnings during this time was well over €18,000. But the biggest expense for him was travel and parking during his treatment.

He spent €50 in diesel every time he had to travel to Galway for appointments or treatment and says the parking charges simply broke him.

Another former cancer patient, Aisling Flynn, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011. She was 40 and working as a part-time yoga teacher.

On her diagnosis she gave up work at a loss of around €15,000 a year. During her treatment Aisling was receiving bills and debt collection letters for the inpatient charges related to her hospital stay. She didn't receive a medical card until after her treatment ended.

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