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Terminal cancer survivor: how illness took me to brink of debt and homelessness

PUBLISHED: 11:00 09 October 2020

Julian was born and raised in south east London but moved to Bures in Suffolk to live with his girlfriend more recently. Picture: JULIAN FIANO

Julian was born and raised in south east London but moved to Bures in Suffolk to live with his girlfriend more recently. Picture: JULIAN FIANO

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Julian Fiano, of Bures near Sudbury, has spoken of how having brain cancer plunged him into financial insecurity.

Julian thought he would have to sleep in his car with dog Bowser when he faced not being able to make his rent payment. Picture: JULIAN FIANOJulian thought he would have to sleep in his car with dog Bowser when he faced not being able to make his rent payment. Picture: JULIAN FIANO

Having been told he had just six months to live, Julian Fiano has astounded doctors by continuing to survive brain cancer against the odds four years on.

But today, the 32-year-old has spoken of how his illness plunged him into financial insecurity, with mounting debts and looming homelessness - through no fault of his own.

Julian, who this year moved to Bures, near Sudbury, to start a new life with his girlfriend as he continues his miraculous journey, had stopped working and turned down a dream job as a football coach after being given the dreadful news in 2016.

“Without a job, the rent quickly started to stack up and there was a real chance I would be evicted and end up sleeping in the car with my dog,” he said.

Julian was facing homelessness when Macmillan Cancer Support stepped in to help with his financial situation. Picture: JULIAN FIANOJulian was facing homelessness when Macmillan Cancer Support stepped in to help with his financial situation. Picture: JULIAN FIANO

Things got so bad he considered taking out a loan to cover the rent, which would have simply landed him in more debt and exacerbated the problem.

The charity also helped investigate back payments for disability benefits, which Julian was entitled to but had missed out on.

But Mr Fiano is today speaking out about the difficulties he faced to highlight the cruel predicament facing many cancer sufferers, whose conditions plunge them into financial insecurity through no fault of their own.

He says he is “not sure I would be alive today” without the grant.

Julian was given a diagnosis of terminal brain cancer in March 2016, however is still planning for his future. Picture: JULIAN FIANOJulian was given a diagnosis of terminal brain cancer in March 2016, however is still planning for his future. Picture: JULIAN FIANO

“Money is not something anyone with cancer should have to worry about, whether they have a stage one or terminal diagnosis,” he said.

“First and foremost, you have to be able to focus on your health.

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“At first I felt really bad taking the money, but then Macmillan said not to and they made me feel reassured.

“When I was going through hard times no-one was speaking about it, so I didn’t know it was an issue for so many people suffering from terminal illness.

“Macmillan swept in and did everything for me, taking away my worries and any added stress.

“With any further visits to the hospital, the nurse would come to check on me, ask about the benefits, basically making sure life was going as smoothly as possible.”

Calls to the financial guidance team on Macmillan’s support line have increased steadily in recent months.

Calls answered by the service are now 32% higher than during the first month of lockdown.

New research from the charity has revealed that one in three people with cancer in the East of England are severely financially affected by their diagnosis.

A total 46% of people with cancer in the East of England are in work when they are diagnosed – while data shows that one in eight only have £250 or less in savings, as of September.

One in 14 don’t have any savings at all.

Nearly one in five of those currently in work in the East of England say they would be unable to make ends meet within a month of being unable to work.

Julian says he know appreciates everything in life more following his cancer diagnosis, from making coffee in the morning to hearing birds sing in the garden.

“I am not naive about the fact cancer could cut my life short anytime, but life is unpredictable and there are so many other things that could kill you first, so I just live as normal,” he said.

“I never expected to be alive at this point and as long as I keep waking up physically fit, I am happy.”


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