Dan’s story. Hearing he had cancer just after moving in with his partner
Dan was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma at just 23 years old, two weeks after moving into his new house with his partner. He noticed a small lump and been suffering with night sweats before he received his cancer diagnosis.
He went on to have 24 rounds of radiotherapy, which meant having to travel back and forth to hospital every weekday for five weeks. He had to stop working and was put onto sick pay of £90 a week. On top of managing his rent, bills and other regular payments, Dan then had to find the money to travel back and forth to hospital.
Dan’s family and partner were a big support to him throughout his treatment, driving him to and from treatment and helping with the financial and emotional impact of cancer.
“I had a small lump which was the first thing I noticed and then I started having some night sweats just on occasion and then not long after that I went to my GP. She had a look and then she referred me to see someone at the hospital and they then took a biopsy. Unfortunately because at the time it was covid and there were lockdowns, it did end up taking quite a bit of time to get the results and then there was a bit of a mix up.
“They called me into Basildon hospital and my consultant went through everything with me to be honest I don’t remember much from that day, it was all just a lot at once and it’s kind of a blur. I just remember being told ‘you have cancer’ and then I didn’t hear and I just stopped listening at that point. I was with my partner.
“I suffer from health anxiety anyway and my head always thinks the worst so I did the thing you shouldn’t do and typed everything online and it came up with all these scenarios – but I kept telling myself that I hoped it wouldn’t be.”
Dan went on to have 24 rounds of radiotherapy over five weeks.
“I had twenty-four rounds of radiotherapy, Monday to Friday. We had to travel to Southend, I had the treatment at Southend and everything else was done in Basildon but I live in Chelmsford – it’s about half an hour drive.”
He had to stop working, which meant his income dropped significantly, leaving him and his partner struggling.
“Before diagnosis I had recently moved in with my partner a couple of weeks before lockdown and then not long after that is when I got the diagnosis. I was working full time in retail as a deputy manager, I’d been doing that for six years. Where I was in retail, we were still open every day and there was no furlough. When I got ill, I initially went on sick pay but I got full sick pay for around three or four weeks and then after that it got cut down to SSP so at the time I think it was £90 a week. Going from a full time wage to such a small amount was difficult.”
One of the biggest costs Dan faced while on treatment was travel.
“Petrol was maybe £5/10 a day and then the parking ticket depended on how long I was, sometimes I’d be straight in and out so we’d only be there an hours but other times, like if the machine was broken, I’d have to wait three to four hours so we’d have to put more money on the parking – so I guess anywhere between 10-15 pounds a day over 24 days. Then there was my other appointments to see my consultant so I ended up going there maybe 30-40 times in total.”
Dan says being diagnosed with cancer at a young age impacted almost every part of his life.
“It impacted everything really, my social life, my work life, financially and not just me but my partner. He was working full time and having to try and be there for me as well so occasionally he’d have to take a day off if I was having a particularly bad day. It felt like I had to rely on people sometimes and it wasn’t a nice feeling. I’d like to do it by myself but there were times, apart from the first couple of times, I wasn’t well enough to drive myself there so I was having to rely on lifts from family and my partner. It has an effect on them as well as me.”
Now he is in remission, Dan says his biggest piece of advice would be to allow others to help and support you.
“Don’t be afraid to let other people help you and share the burden and although you are, in a way, on your own when you’re having the treatment or you’re just at home on your own sometimes and there are a lot of down times, you have to use the strength of all the people around you, they really do help you get through it.”
Dan’s partner was a huge source of support to him.
“He was working full time so it was a bit difficult but luckily his employer was very understanding so we had my treatment schedule and then he worked his whole entire rota around that so he could be there for me, physically and emotionally. I couldn’t have been luckier I don’t think. Also he was having to pay near enough all the rent because I wasn’t able to contribute.”
When Dan and his partner were struggling to face the financial impact of cancer, they looked online and found Young Lives vs Cancer who were able to help access financial support.
“I just was looking online and I found your website and saw it was for young people so I thought it would be good. At the time we were both struggling financially because I wasn’t able to pay my half of the rent like normal so initially I contacted about financial advice and I spoke to James in the welfare team and then he gave me all the advice about claiming back travel expenses and help for me for applying for benefits because I was out of work, he helped me with the whole process.”
He was also supported by our social care team, who would chat to Dan and check in to make sure he was doing well.
“I could call anytime and I had talks with her and it was nice to speak to someone else outside of the family.”
Posted on Tuesday 6 June 2023