Help is at hand
No one expects to be told ‘it’s cancer’. The diagnosis brings many concerns, not all of them physical. What about work? What about time off? How do we cope financially? What happens next? Knowing how to deal with some of the day-to-day aspects can help lighten the load. Here are some of the aspects that you may be worrying about, if the diagnosis is cancer, and some of the people who can help.
When you’re diagnosed with cancer, there’ll be lots of people ready to take care of you. They’ll meet regularly to plan your treatment. The team will include:
- Surgeon – the doctor who performs the surgery to remove the cancer.
- Oncologist – trained in radiotherapy and chemotherapy, he/she will prescribe and supervise the course of treatment.
- Radiographers – there are two types: diagnostic radiographers, who will take x-rays to work out how far the cancer has spread, and therapy radiographers, who provide radiotherapy treatments.
- Cancer nurses – many cancer centres have specialist nurses trained in the differing types of cancers and their treatments. They can be a good source of information and support.
- Pathologist – investigations normally start with by a small piece of tissue taken from your body. A pathologist examines the sample to find out if it is cancerous.
Charities and organisations
You can get more advice and support from groups and charities that have lots of experience, helping people who’ve been diagnosed with cancer. Here are some of the key organisations you may have heard of, whose work concentrates on providing support to cancer sufferers, their families, colleagues and friends:
Breakthrough Breast Cancer
Advice on treatment and accessing the best help
08080 100 200
Target Ovarian Cancer
Offers advice and access to local support groups
020 7923 5470
Bowel Cancer UK
Has specialist nurses for advice or support
0800 8 40 35 40
Prostate Cancer UK
Offers information on diagnosis and treatment, and the opportunity to speak to specialist nurses with specific queries
0800 074 8383
Macmillan Cancer Support
0808 808 00 00
Cancer Research UK
0808 800 4040
020 7470 8755
What about work?
- You’re protected by the Equality Act 2010 (if you live in England, Wales or Scotland), or the Disability Discrimination Act (if you live in Northern Ireland). This means you can’t be dismissed, refused a job or promotion, or otherwise treated worse because of your illness.
- Employers have to make reasonable adjustments, which includes allowing time off for appointments and letting you come back to work in stages, after a break.
- Individuals too unwell to work are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay from their employer, as a minimum, for up to 28 weeks off work. Hospital staff and GPs can tell you how much time you may need to take off and what the effect of the treatment may be – but it’s important to know that everyone’s treatment journey is a little different.
- Macmillan Cancer Support recommends that you talk to your employer as soon as possible to let them know that it might be necessary to cut back on work or take time off.
- If you need a lot of time off, you may be entitled to benefits – the Benefit Enquiry Line can help you, on 0800 882 200. If you’re self-employed you may be entitled to benefits and Government support and, on the plus side, you are more likely to be able to work flexible hours.
What about money?
A lot of people with cancer worry about their finances, particularly if they have a family to think about. Try not to panic – there’s a lot of help available. If you have private insurance cover for income replacement, life insurance, loan or mortgage protection, or critical illness cover, speak to your insurance company straight away.
If that’s us, here at Aviva, you’ll find we’ll have someone on hand who can listen to your concerns, and offer guidance that will help you work out where you stand. If you have debts that you can’t pay, it’s crucial you don’t stick your head in the sand – speak to your creditors and come up with a plan. They are likely to be understanding when they hear about the circumstances. For more help, you can also call Macmillan’s specialist cancer support teams on 0808 808 00 00.
What about loved ones?
This can bring a lot of practical concerns. Parents may need help with childcare and, if you’re a carer to your partner or someone else, you’ll also need support with your usual duties. No one should fret in silence: talk to friends and family members who may be in a position to help. If that isn’t enough, speak to a social worker (most cancer centres have one), who can arrange a package of care. There are also charities, including Home-Start (home-start.org.uk) and Carers Trust (carers.org) that provide practical support in the home. If extra help calls for payment, such as childcare, financial assistance may be available. Social workers can also advise about the care of pets – they have a duty to provide care if no one else can look after them. There’s a lot of help available, from fostering to volunteer dog walking.
How Aviva can help
Customers holding a policy with us that includes cancer cover, can get help, advice and support for themselves and for their families from our oncology team. From diagnosis through to completion of treatment, we assign one case handler to each claim – so there’s just one point of contact. Also, our trained nurses have expert knowledge about the latest drugs and treatments available, and we’re always happy to offer insights about prescriptions or proposed treatments.