Cancer during Covid: ‘I felt pretty helpless and numb’

Siobhan MacAndrew was diagnosed with breast cancer and made redundant from her job in the same week.

Siobhan MacAndrew was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2019.

In the same week she was made redundant from her job.

It was a stressful time and Siobhan admits she needed help to sort out her financial situation, while also coming to terms with the news about her health.

Like many others, the 59-year-old turned to Macmillan Cancer Support for advice.

New figures show the charity handed out cash grants worth £1.2m across Scotland last year

For many, the money went to basic necessities like food, clothing and heating.

Siobhan is well-educated, holding a Doctor of Philosophy, but she admits she needed help managing her money.

She told STV News: “Cancer comes into your life when the rest of your life is happening and, for me, there had been a restructuring at my job, and my job came to an end.

“It was really in that very week that I found a lump in my breast.

“I felt pretty helpless and numb and, of course, in a situation where I couldn’t plan my financial future but I also couldn’t plan for the cancer either, so you feel very bewildered, I suppose, and (you think) ‘how could you be in this situation when a matter of weeks ago everything was fine?”

Macmillan put Siobhan in contact with a welfare and benefits advisor, who identified that finances were her main worry.

“He basically took me through the entire process of applying for benefits, which was an enormous gift to give me,” she said.

“It was just an immense weight off my mind.”

Overall, more than one million fewer women in the UK underwent breast screening between March and December, which means nearly 11,000 cases in the UK have gone undiagnosed.

Just under a thousand of those are in Scotland

Macmillan Cancer Support say these figures are yet another timely reminder of the financial strain cancer can bring.

There was a slight fall in overall grants handed out last year – But, the charity expects a sharp increase soon – as undiagnosed cases during the pandemic come to light.

Siobhan said: “I actually had my radiotherapy at the Beatson Hospital in Glasgow in the first week of lockdown, so it was a very peculiar time, sort of walking the streets in Glasgow – a city I don’t really know – quite nervous about the radiotherapy.

“I’m one of the lucky ones, I literally started my radiotherapy in the first week of Covid. I know there are lots of people out there who aren’t as lucky as me, so I suppose my message would be ‘pick up the phone, find out, speak to Macmillan and they won’t let you be alone.”

Cancer charities say they’ll continue to help people like Siobhan.

But extra support from the Government could be needed if there’s a spike in demand.

The message is: Don’t be scared to ask for help. And health professionals want anyone who suspects they might have cancer to seek help early.