Macmillan saves Hemel mum having to choose between cancer costs and Christmas presents

In Dacorum, over £16,500 was awarded to 53 people living with a cancer diagnosis in 2020

Wednesday, 24th March 2021, 9:26 am
Updated Wednesday, 24th March 2021, 3:02 pm

A mum from Hemel Hempstead diagnosed with breast cancer a month before Christmas feared her kids would have to go without presents as the cost of cancer left her without money for gifts.

But, thanks to a Macmillan grant – a one-off payment awarded to help with the costs of cancer – that was not the case.

Mum-of-three Jenny Powell, 37, had always kept a close eye on her incomings and outgoings, but the suddenness of her diagnosis in November 2020 – at a time when childcare responsibilities and the pandemic meant she was without employment – made it difficult to find additional funds for the wigs, clothing and other items that would help her retain some comfort and dignity through her illness.

Jenny at home and right, in hospital following her mastectomy operation

Any concerns that she would not be able to make ends meet over the holiday period were quickly dispelled by Debbie Kingsley of the Hertfordshire Macmillan Benefits Advice Service, a partnership between Macmillan Cancer Support and Hertfordshire County Council.

From talking to Debbie, Jenny discovered she could apply to have extra help with her rent and could also apply for PIP (Personal Independence Payment) whilst her ability to perform daily activities remained inhibited by cording – a common and uncomfortable side effect of mastectomy operations that can reduce the range of movement of the arm and shoulder.

The time it would take for these applications to be processed by her local authority and the Department for Work and Pensions meant that a Macmillan Grant was vital to saving the Powell family Christmas.

Her application for a £350 grant was approved on the same day and helped pay for the essential items that Jenny would need during and after surgery to remove her left breast.

Jenny's partner Nick helps her daughter Edeyn-Rai place the star on their Christmas tree

Jenny said: “Debbie’s literally done everything for me when it comes to applying for extra financial support; she just knows what to do and when to do it.

"She asked me if I knew I was entitled to a Macmillan grant – which I wasn’t – and helped me complete an application form to help me cover the cost of support bras, a hospital bag, wigs, new clothes and make-up, which I needed to make me feel more like myself.

“It was just before Christmas and I really thought I’d have to take money away from the kids’ Christmas present budget to pay for this stuff, which made me feel like a bad parent.

"The grant was an absolute godsend. I flew around the shops in a day trying to get everything I needed before I went into hospital – which was made harder by it being lockdown – and at the same time was trying to organise Christmas and plan Christmas dinner.

Jenny's daughter Edeyn-Rai enjoys her Christmas presents

"Just knowing I had the grant meant there was one less thing to worry about. When I found out about the Macmillan grant, I just wanted to cry, Debbie was like an angel to me.”

Cancer charity Macmillan Cancer Support gave over £9.2million nationally in hardship grants last year to help people with cancer struggling with the pandemic’s financial impact and the unexpected costs cancer can bring.

The charity’s grants are available to anyone living with cancer in Hertfordshire facing financial difficulties, thanks to donations from the public.

During 2020 Macmillan gave over £99,900 in hardship grants to 321 people with cancer in the county, helping them to pay for home comforts and essentials such as heating their homes, travel to hospital appointments, bedding and clothing.

Macmillan grants are means-tested, one-off payments of £350 aimed at helping people living with cancer on low incomes.

They can be a huge help especially when many cancer patients are having to shield during the current lockdown. In Hertfordshire, the highest number of grants were given to people living with digestive cancers.

Macmillan Benefits Adviser Debbie Kingsley, based in Hertfordshire said: “The sad truth is that more than a third of people with cancer (39%) are severely financially impacted by their diagnosis, with many now having to deal with the double blow of being diagnosed during the Covid-19 pandemic.

"It’s a devastating reality to contend with and many are simply unaware of the support that exists.

“A Macmillan grant, for example, can help pay for the little things that make a big difference to the lives of people with cancer.

"Our advisers can also help people to navigate the benefits system, advising which benefits they may be entitled to, assisting with claim forms and liaising with the Department for Work and Pensions on their behalf.

“Where people have been affected financially by Covid-19, on top of cancer, we’ll point them towards schemes specifically for them, and can also help people complete Blue Badge applications to make life that bit easier.

“Since our service launched locally in 2017, we’ve been able to secure more than £20m of vital financial assistance, through benefits and grants, for local people affected by cancer.”

To find out more about Macmillan grants and the other financial support you might be eligible for, call the Hertfordshire Macmillan Benefits Advice Service on 01438 843456 (Monday-Friday, 9am – 5pm) or email [email protected]