The shocking financial burden of cancer on Australian families has been uncovered in a recent study by national children’s cancer charity Redkite.
The organisation’s recent survey on its financial assistance program found that 82% of families were forced to dig into their savings to cope financially following their child’s cancer diagnosis, with a further 46% turning to friends and families for financial relief.
Redkite CEO Monique Keighery called for greater recognition of the illness, which affects around 770 new children under the age of 15 each year and takes more young lives than any other childhood disease.
“We’ve seen families make enormous sacrifices – from regularly skipping meals to pawning household items – in an attempt to stay afloat during what is often the most difficult time of their lives,” Ms Keighery said.
“That’s why Redkite exists – to alleviate some of the stress that children and families face, irrespective of their cancer type, from diagnosis and treatment to long term survivorship or bereavement. Whether it’s supplying fuel and grocery vouchers or covering the cost of an essential household bill, we provide practical support that keeps families functioning as best they can through the upheaval of cancer. We work to alleviate the emotional and financial burden of this insidious disease on the whole family,” Ms Keighery said.
Additional data from Redkite’s research found significant insights on the financial burden on families who have a child under 15 with cancer.
- 32% of families relied on credit cards or additional loans and 16% had to sell or pawn their possessions just to do the basics, like pay phone or power bills;
- 1 in 6 families and close to 1 in 4 single parents went without meals to try and manage their bills.
Melbourne’s Christine Urban is one of the thousands of parents who have received Redkite’s essential support services in the last 35 years, following her son Magnus’ diagnosis with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia at just 12 years old.
“After Magnus was diagnosed, I was the part-time financial provider while my husband Michael took on the carer role, spending most of his days bedside in hospital,” Christine said.
“Unfortunately, the bills don’t stop when you work less. Magnus’ chemotherapy meant that he was always cold, even in summer, so our heating costs went through the roof. We even saw our water and electricity bills skyrocket as we were running constant loads of laundry to wash the toxins from his clothes.
“Financially, we were left barely holding on. That’s when Redkite helped put us back on our feet. They not only covered the cost of our bills but were with us each step of the way with emotional support,” she said.
Ms Keighery said that as much as Redkite was able to support the Urban family, like many others, they are still finding their financial equilibrium, nearly five years after their son’s initial diagnosis.
“This is what the financial toxicity of cancer looks like. It’s ongoing and can trickle through to every facet of life. I urge Australia to shine a spotlight on children’s cancer so that together we can help lighten the load for families like Christine’s who are doing it tough – now and into the future.”
This news was covered by Fairfax media. You can read the article in the Sydney Morning Herald.
Photo: Christine Urban with her son Magnus.
Credit: EDDIE JIM, Sydney Morning Herald