Cost of leukaemia – Tony Pullen on sick pay

Tony Pullen talks openly about how being diagnosed with hairy cell leukaemia (HCL) has impacted his financial stability.

“How cancer affects your finances”

“Before I was diagnosed with leukaemia, I worked as a telephone engineer. I was doing more than full time work because I was already heading into a kind of financial difficulty. I was literally working every weekend.

Then, when I was told I had hairy cell leukaemia (HCL), everything all came crashing down on me. The next day, as soon as I was in hospital, I told my workplace, ‘Look, I’m in no fit state to come in the moment.’ I was continuously tired and out of breath. From that day, I was off work for a full 7 months, in and out of hospital with septicaemia.

I got full pay for the first six months, but I was already struggling at the time of diagnosis and we had no savings. What people don’t realise is that your costs also go up when you get cancer. Just one example was that, because I was unable to drive, my partner had to get the bus to a lot of places, and rely on cabs to get shopping back. Then I went onto statutory sick pay. This is when we needed to really look into more support, because of the huge drop in the amount of income we got. I was told to try for benefits, which I did do, but they said straight away that I didn’t qualify. I was refused PIP, as I was able to move around enough according to the assessor.

To top it all off, I had to field phone calls coming through making demands. Thanks to my previous situation, there was some small debts that were being chased. I was an emotional wreck and it was a very, very bad time. My dad kindly put forward the money, some of his life savings, to keep a roof over our heads. But the only option I felt was to declare myself bankrupt with no income on the horizon. It was a long and hard process, which I’m still in the process of five years later. I would tell anyone in this situation to get help before you make such a big decision.

I think the issue of low sick pay is overlooked in the talk of how cancer affects your finances. If someone’s found himself in a predicament that is not their fault, where do they go? Is it moral to let them get into trouble, and let the whole entire family suffer for it? It’s how the impact goes beyond the person diagnosed that upsets me the most. I wanted to support this campaign to do anything that may help anyone, show them that there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel, and stop this happening to other people in the future.”

Leukaemia Care is supporting Safe Sick Pay

We’ve joined 12 charities to ask political leaders to pledge sick pay is increased and paid from day one. Sick Pay is vital for those undergoing cancer treatment to rest and recover safely. Write to your MP with us and ask for #safesickpay for people facing a cancer diagnosis.

Support services

If you or a loved one needs advice or support regarding your diagnosis, please get in touch. You can call our free helpline on 08088 010 444 and speak to one of our nurses. Alternatively, you can send a message to our team via WhatsApp on 07500 068 065 (services available Monday to Friday, 9am – 5pm).

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