Claire Hardwicke has stage four thyroid cancer. This means that it has spread to other parts of her body, and sadly, Claire was told that her cancer is terminal. She also has chronic osteoarthritis. Despite taking 80mg of morphine a day to cope, she continues to experience considerable pain.
Additionally, Claire already had a life-threatening, acute allergy to latex. This means that she has to carry an EpiPen at all times, which is an epinephrine (adrenaline) injection to treat life-threatening anaphylaxis. Developing a severe allergy to latex unfortunately meant that claire could no longer continue working as a mental health nurse.
Claire first became ill 9 years ago with uterine/ovarian cancer, but it was the allergy that made her unemployable and ended her career as a mental-health nurse, her partner, Alan King, told me
Claire’s first bout of cancer was treated and she made a recovery, which lasted only 7 years. Sadly, the diagnosis of her more recent cancer and metastases wasn’t diagnosed until it was untreatable. The tumours had spread throughout her thyroid gland, neck, lymph system and adrenal glands.
All Claire can hope for now is palliative care, which is alleviatory only, as a cure isn’t possible.
Unbelievably, Claire was assessed as “fit for work” by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) last year. Her Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) was stopped. All of her financial support ended. This was despite being told by a Capita assessor (for Personal Independence Payments) that a report to the DWP would state that she was in need of more support, not less.
Overnight the couple lost every bit of financial support they had previously been in receipt of, so Alan decided to use what little financial resources he had left to help Claire fulfill some of her “Bucket List.”
The couple were forced to say goodbye to their rented bungalow and 99% of their possessions because their housing benefit was stopped. They had no income, as Claire’s Disabled Living Allowance (DLA) Employment Support Allowance (ESA) was stopped, and the Carer’s Allowance also ended.
Claire and Alan went to visit family members around the UK before setting off, in October 2016, on a Mediterranean cruise for a month, which Alan paid for, using his credit cards.
On the return journey, both of them realised that going all the way back to the UK – where they were homeless, with no income, and no longer even qualified for free prescriptions – would be pointless. So the couple left the cruise when they got to Portugal, where it’s significantly warmer than the UK (and therefore less painful for Claire) – and they’ve been there ever since, living in a very basic, rented room.
Alan told me: “Claire’s cancer hasn’t claimed her life as quickly as we both had imagined, (which is good), but with medications, food and board, we’re now out of funds and out of options unless we can somehow fundraise for some subsistence.”
The couple have paid money in advance for their single room in Portugal, which covers rent until 14th March, after which time they will have absolutely nowhere to go.
Claire says: “There are new trial therapies for extreme cases of thyroid cancer like mine. I wish I had a pot of gold to pay for the experimental cancer therapy.
“I don’t want to die, but choices and chances aren’t given to the poor people. We need a miracle, a winning lotto ticket. There should be equal opportunities for all patients.”
Tiffany Williams, a friend of Claire’s in the UK, has set up a crowdfunding page on JustGiving to raise £800 to help pay for her treatment. So far, 53% of the sum has been raised.
It’s such a modest amount for a treatment that will make a huge difference to Claire and Alan, who have lost their home and everything else they had in the UK. Now they are at risk of losing their room in Portugal, too.
You can make a donation at: http://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/tiffany-williams