Cancer society’s move will only add to patients’ load

The cost of cancer is not the first thing that springs to mind on receiving a diagnosis. Your entire world is taken over by the disease and how to fight it, writes Karen Funnell

Whatever your treatment option, there is a lot to take on board — and the financial implications are not generally high on the priority list.

However, it doesn’t take long for the realities of the disease to hit home. Not every patient is entitled to a medical card, so there are medication costs and extra GP visits to factor in. Hospital parking costs are exorbitant, and the cost of a decent wig can set you back €600. There’s nothing free about the Big C.

Personally, I didn’t have any particular financial woes when I was diagnosed five years ago, aside from the usual mortgage/childcare/bills scenario that most of us face and I didn’t actively seek any financial assistance from the State other than the sick pay to which I was entitled when I was unable to work.

It wasn’t until quite near the end of my treatment — when I was due to have five weeks of radiotherapy, involving a daily 60km round trip from home to hospital — that I was informed by an oncology nurse of a fund that could ease the burden.

The stipend was modest — I recall receiving €250 — but it made a difference. I wasn’t in dire straits but I wasn’t rolling around in spare cash either and it covered petrol costs.

I met other people during my treatment — people who were less fortunate than myself and who would be entitled to the full €1,000 payout. One woman had a brain tumour and had to travel from Kerry for her daily dose of radium.

She relied on a voluntary bus service to take her to and from the hospital every day. She was unable to return to work and, through no fault of her own, faced an uncertain future relying entirely on State benefits. I recall her telling me how she used the hardship fund to pay her gas bill.

The Irish Cancer Society understands the quandary patients find themselves in — last year it carried out an in-depth survey called The Real Cost of Cancer — but as a charity 90% funded by the public, it says it can no longer afford to meet the demand of the financial support programme.

It says it was a difficult choice to close the hardship fund but says it is no longer possible for the society alone to bear the burden. It has highlighted the issues with the Government and the HSE and said it hoped both would “respond adequately”.

There have been angry calls to boycott Daffodil Day, while others questioned why charities are expected to offer financial support to families in the first place.

Rightly or wrongly, the Irish Cancer Society is passing the buck and the Government isn’t going to pick up the tab.Fighting cancer is tough enough, this will only add to the load.


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