Next step

Hi chaps, I need some of your fabulous advice and guidance.

I'm a 57 year old single mum (18yr old)

I was originally diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer 2018 which has now spread to the peritoneum and has been diagnosed incurable. I'm in the middle of receiving taxol and Avastin and awaiting the results of a CT scan.

I'm signed off work and am receiving statutory sick pay plus PIP maintenance and have been completely unsure where I go from here.

My work is really supportive as this is the 2nd time in a year I have been off work. My job is really physical and not very well paid but I get to help young people in their education which is really rewarding. I'm not sure if I will ever be well enough to do the job again or if this is the time to retire sick. I hardly have any pension and I'm concerned that my financial situation will get worse than it already is. I don't know what I would be expected to live on so making the decision to benefit my health or my wealth is confusing me. 

I was wondering when you made the decision to not go back to work and how you manage to pay the bills. 

Ive been reading some of your really useful posts on here and in particular about planning for your funeral. Is there a way to pay for a funeral on low income?.

I feel I'm at a crossroads where I need to make some decisions about the future but I don't know what that future is. I know many of you are further down the line and may offer some worldly advice. Thank you. 

  • Hi Fishtrombone

    others May be able to help with some of this. I wanted to ask you mention working with young people in their education, is that for a local council ? I ask this because I am a children’s social woHugging on sick and you can try and retire on poor health grounds . I am about to put in another sick note for 6 months. I am also a mum with a 12 year old son. Like you I worry about bills. I am hoping Hugging leave on ill health grounds and access my pension that way or make sure as my son is named as next of kin, he can access it. My employer provides pension clinics at work to discuss your options. Huggingpe it helps take care . Virtual hug Hugging x


  • Thank you Tamencio,

    You sound like you're in a similar place to me, still employed and wondering where to go. 

    I'm an art technician in a further education college so I work with 16-19yr olds. They are awesome. I do miss working with them. But lifting 25 kilo bags of clay sounds like something I couldn't do anymore lol. 

    It sounds like you've made your decision. My college hasn't got anyone who can give pension advice and I'll be honest, I'm clueless lol. I'm with the local gov pension scheme but only started my pot in the mid 2000s so not much to live on im afraid.

  • Hi Fishtrombone

    i would get some advice from a welfare benefits advisor. I live in a village on the outskirts of Leeds and the McMillan Advisor at Harrogate Hospital has been great. Take care.


  • I forgot to say I have really loved my job as well. Even though sometimes under difficult circumstances after ( I’m ancient ) 31 years I would not have done anything else. I love working with children and young people. It has been a privilege and pleasure to be allowed to get to know them. Take care


  • Ah yes thank you Tamencio. My local Macmillan citizens advice helped me get the Pip maintenance and apply for a blue badge. They are so helpful. They maybe able to advise on the pension/finance/benefit too. They'll certainly know more than me haha. Thanks for your help. X

  • hi first step, give Macmillan a call and arrange to see one of their advisors.  I gave up work straight away at recurrence as my tumours are quite advanced, I loved my job but could not have carried on. I really miss it but feel like it is part of my old life now.

    The other thing (and maybe my work HR Is just weirdly incompetent) - my sick pay was running out so they said I would stop getting money on a certain date, then almost as if they had forgotten they said dubiously, oh we could put you into our insurance policy......turns out they were part of a scheme that would pay out 75% pay for long term disability.  I guess local govt won’t have that but sometimes you do have better terms and conditions than you think (to make up for lower pay), so definitely worth speaking to HR after macmillan.

    love heather x

  • Ah thank you Heather, that sounds like a plan.

    I think you've hit the nail on the head when you said you feel it was part of your old life. I think I've been reluctant to make a decision as I secretly know this isn't just about letting go of a job I love but accepting that I'm now an incurable cancer patient with an uncertain future. A different life entirely. I mean who wants to contemplate that? It was never part of the plan.

    Your HR dept sounds as bad as mine. They have been noticeable by their silence. And they seem unable to give me straight answers. Can't believe yours had a secret insurance that they forgot about! 

    I will definitely check out with Macmillan. At least they give expert sound advice. 

    Thank you x


  • Hi @Fishtrombone,

    I am 58 now but retired on the grounds of ill health a couple of years ago now.  It was accepted by my pension scheme that I would not be able to work again and my pension and lump sum were paid out as if I had paid my full pension until I was 67, my expected retirement age.  This is roughly the amount that will be quoted to you in your "projected pension" summary which you receive each year (minus the interest that they would expect to accrue over the intervening years as you are effectively getting it early).

    I talked to a Macmillan advisor over the telephone about this before doing anything and they e mailed me some guidance to look at so that I could ensure I knew what was happening.  The process took some time and included an "assessment" by the pension fund doctor but this was done on the basis of the information provided to them from my oncologist.  For me it was a very straightforward process.

    There are three different levels depending upon your ability to work again or do other jobs and each will give a slightly different rate of pension.  The fact that I get the highest rate means that even voluntary work is not possible for me or it may put my pension at risk.

    I was initially a bit sceptical about the pension provider thinking that they might be a bit like an insurance company trying to avoid paying out but to be honest once I had talked to Macmillan and then started the process by advising my employer that I wished to seek retirement on medical grounds the pension fund people were very helpful.

    I am fortunate in that I already had a significant number of years membership and with the additional 12 years I received, my pension plus my benefits mean that my income is actually a tiny bit more than my take home pay when I was working plus I received the lump sum.

    I would always recommend Macmillan as a great starting point for financial advice (and about you rights at work as well).

    Wishing you all the best whatever you decide.

    Gragon x

  • Heya Fishy, 

    The thing you need to look at is ESA. If you leave work due to ill health then you apply for ESA. It's similar to JSA, but you aren't looking for a job and you don't need to check in etc. So it's the sick persons version of JSA.

    There's a standard rate of ESA, however if you're already on PIP, then that bumps up your ESA payments. 

    So that's how I pay my bills after I had to quit work. ESA, Housing benefit, Council tax benefit, and PIP.



    I have no medical training, everything I post is an opinion or educated guess. It is not medical advice.

  • Hello Gragon,

    thank you! That is so useful to know. I am definitely talking to an Macmillan advisor as this seems the way forward and the sooner the better. Taking in the information and being able to make and informed decision at this point is going to help ease the transition from working to retired.

    I had no idea about the different rates of pension. Does this imply that it is feasible that you may be judged to be able to work again even though you have been diagnosed incurable? I suppose what I mean is it is possible to live with an incurable cancer for quite some time so could you essentially be expected to work if there is no physical reason to stop you. Can they say no?

    Thank you x