A mother-of-five who was forced to quit her job while she undergoes treatment for stage 4 cancer says the costs are pushing her family back into poverty.
On The Hard Shoulder this evening, Linda Bowdler said she took the ‘heart-breaking’ decision to retire at the end of July – and has yet to receive a medical card or any form of social welfare payment.
The 45-year-old said her diagnosis has had a hugely negative impact on her family’s finances and she is now living with her diagnosis and the guilt she feels when she is unable to afford extra expenses for her children.
She was speaking as The Irish Cancer Society (ICS) called on the Government to remove inpatient charges for cancer sufferers – warning that the cost of treatment is placing a huge financial burden on patients.
Ms Bowdler said she was diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer in June 2021.
She said she was forced to retire from her job this summer – but could be waiting months for financial support from the State.
“I finished work near the end of July and I still haven’t had any social welfare payment,” she explained to The Hard Shoulder.
“I’ve applied for a medical card. It hasn’t come through. I haven’t heard from them. So, we're waiting for all these things to come and apparently it takes 12 - 20 weeks to receive the invalidity pension.”
GP visits, trips to collect prescriptions and colonoscopies have all become routine parts of Linda’s life and without a medical card, they all still need to be paid for.
“It all adds up,” she continued wearily.
“I have a weekly podcast where I speak to other ladies who have cancer and we speak a lot about the financial strain of cancer.
“I say this a lot, cancer doesn’t knock on your door three years before you’re diagnosed and say, ‘Listen, start saving now, we’re coming for you in two years and this is when your whole life is completely turned upside down.’
“Then you feel like you’re living in poverty again and you’re having to go to the social welfare.”
Hardest of all is that she cannot give the children the things they ask for:
“My eight-year-old daughter wants to go to gymnastics and it’s €180 that you have to pay for the term and I have to say ‘no’ to her,” she said - her voice filled with emotion.
“You can imagine as a mother how upsetting that is to have to live with the guilt. Sometimes you feel like it’s your fault that everything’s changed at home because you’ve got cancer and you can’t afford to do those things.
“It’s not as if she’s in five or six other activities, she’s in none. It was just one activity and we couldn’t afford to pay for that. It’s not just about me as a cancer patient, it’s about everybody that is around you.”
Irish Cancer society
The Irish Cancer Society is warning that many patients are forced to stop working while they receive treatment – and is calling on the Government to remove inpatient charges for cancer sufferers.
ICS Director of Advocacy Rachel Morrogh told the show that this year’s budget is an opportunity for the Government to ease the “huge financial burden” on cancer patients.
“We need action on this in the next couple of weeks,” she said. “Parents and families can’t be asked to sustain these costs for another year.”
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Main image: A split-screen of Linda Bowdler and cancer-treatment machinery.