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Cancer families on thin ice during cold snap

Following the UK’s latest cold snap, new findings released today by Macmillan Cancer Support and the charity’s partner, npower, show the crippling impact of cancer patients suffering in the cold, unable to pay their increased energy bills.

Approximately 35,000 (1.4%) people living with cancer say they last felt warm over a year ago and many now have no choice but to spend their days in bed or inside wrapped up under coats, hats and scarves to try and stay warm.

Nearly a third (31%) of people living with cancer say they feel the cold more for reasons related to their diagnosis and treatment such as weight and hair loss, a lack of appetite, reduced energy levels and circulation problems. As a result, many cancer patients are forced to put their heating on more and one in five (21%) see their yearly energy bill increase by almost £200 on average. For many, this is an extra expense they cannot afford, especially when they are not working and their income is reduced.

Of the 31% of cancer patients who feel colder, at least one in seven suffer with depression (15%) or anxiety (14%) and nearly a quarter (23%) say they have sleepless nights or difficulty sleeping as a result of feeling the cold more. Macmillan and npower want to raise awareness of the support available through their partnership which helps patients to heat their homes without worrying about the cost.

When Katie Sharpe’s mum Sue was diagnosed with bladder cancer in April 2016, Katie packed her bags and moved in to Sue’s home to become her carer. With two young daughters, it was a tough time.

Katie, 32, Frinton-on-Sea said: “When Mum was going through treatment, she felt freezing all of the time, no matter how many layers she wore. This meant we put the heating on a lot more and her bills went up considerably. The extra cost was really stressful for her, especially as she was unable to work. She went from earning to being put on benefits.

“When Mum found out about npower’s Macmillan Fund, she was over the moon. Her monthly bills became much more manageable and she was able to focus on her health. Mum’s cancer was terminal and she sadly passed away in November 2016. Although Mum is no longer with us, she saw the help as a godsend and I want to keep raising awareness so that more people know about brilliant support.”

This issue has been a major concern for over 100 years – in fact, the charity’s founder, Douglas Macmillan handed out bags of coal to cancer patients who were struggling to afford to keep warm when the charity first started in 1911.

Developed in response to this problem, npower’s Macmillan Fund caps energy bills and writes off debt for eligible npower customers who are struggling with their bills. npower also supports Macmillan’s Energy Advice Team, which offers help and guidance for people, regardless of their energy supplier. The partnership between Macmillan and npower has been running for 13 years and has helped over 34,000 families in that time.

Karen Roberts, Chief of Nursing and Allied Health Professionals at Macmillan Cancer Support said:

“Put plainly, feeling cold at any time when you’re unwell is hard but waking up during the dark nights and feeling cold is miserable. From my experience as a nurse, it can cause people to feel depressed as well as completely exhausted because they aren’t sleeping. In turn, this can slow down recovery and diminish their quality of life. We want to raise awareness of the support that’s available with paying energy bills from Macmillan and npower this winter to help people keep warm without worrying about their finances.”

Macmillan Cancer Support and npower have been working together for 13 years to help people living with cancer keep warm without worrying about the cost. If you’re living with cancer and struggling to pay your energy bills, visit macmillan.org.uk/keepwarm to find out how we can help.

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