Ellen Phillipson want to warn people to prepare financially for extended periods away from work due to illness. (Rick Stiebel/News Gazette staff)

Financial struggles during treatment almost as bad as cancer warns patient

View Royal resident shares her story to help others

Rick Stiebel/News Gazette staff

Although dealing with cancer has been quite a challenge for Ellen Phillipson, the time endured struggling to survive without a pay cheque has also caused significant duress.

“I think in some ways I’ve been more stressed about my finances than the chemo,” said the View Royal resident.

“Not only do you have to fight for your life, you have to fight to survive.”

A diagnosis of stage one breast cancer on December 22, 2016 resulted in a mastectomy on January 19 of this year, followed by rounds of chemotherapy that began on March 22.

Phillipson, who has worked all of her life – the past 10 years as a room attendant at a Langford hotel – was not prepared to be without a pay cheque for an extended period.

“In a matter of weeks my life was flipped upside down,” she noted. “You’re only allowed 15 weeks when you’re on medical EI, and I was still undergoing chemo when that ran out in April,” Phillipson said.

She soon found out her options were limited to collecting social assistance, or trying to access short-term disability through her Canada Pension Plan once her employment insurance payments ceased.

When she found out that process can take three to four months, she applied for social assistance in June, which provides $610 a month. Her application for CPP short-term disability, which she submitted in June, was turned down last week. She said the reason given is that she doesn’t have what’s considered a severe or prolonged medical condition.

Severe disability payments are approved when there is a mental or physical condition that prevents a return to work for an extended period. Prolonged payments are approved when the time away from work is likely to be long-term and of indefinite duration, or likely to result in death, Phillipson explained. She could appeal the decision, but that could take another three months, and she hopes to be back to work before that.

“If I didn’t have roommates I would have been homeless or living in my mom’s basement,” she noted. She is also on the hook for the cost of some of the medications she needs because not all are covered through the Medical Services Plan. As it is now, she will have to take hormone therapy medication for the rest of her life.

“You work your whole life, have a good steady job and a good wage,” she said. “It’s really scary how fast the money goes when there’s none coming in.”

Phillipson is grateful she received a $5,000 grant from the B.C. Hospitality Foundation, which assists hotel and hospitality workers in crises. “I don’t know what I would have done without their help.”

Phillipson, 53, is adamant about wanting to share a word of caution with people who may find themselves in the same situation.

“This is not a cry for help, I’m not looking for handouts,” she emphasized, pointing out this is the first time she has ever contacted a news organization.

“If it helps one person be prepared for the personal hardships you can face, it’s worth it. As soon as you’re diagnosed, take care of all the paper work immediately. Once you’re diagnosed, everything happens so fast. You’re so sick, lying in bed. If you’re not prepared (financially, and for the necessary applications and paperwork) it just adds a whole other level of stress.”

Phillipson has an appointment with her oncologist on Oct. 10, and hopes to return to work at the end of that month. “I’m just not physically strong enough at this point,” she said. “I’m doing good right now, but you never know with this disease.”

reporter@goldstreamgazette.com

Just Posted

Colwood development draws ire of residents

Developer says he’s listened and addressed residents’ concerns

What is it like to be part of the Canadian Armed Forces?

Try military rations, combat gear and simulated shooting range on Saturday

Victoria Police meet Aboriginal activists for afternoon flick

The group gathered as part of ongoing series of events supporting reconciliation efforts

Dance Victoria Nutcracker contest returns to Oak Bay village

Find Mr. Nutcracker and Tommy Tempo now through Nov. 26 for chacne to win ballet tickets

100,000 bulbs shine bright for Lights of Hope

St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver launched its annual campaign to raise funds for equipment, research

‘No shirt, no service, no Canada’

Shirtless Tacoma man arrested after Canadian border officials say they found meth in rental vehicle

West Shore craft fair roundup

Holiday-themed events taking place on the West Shore

Weekend hit list: Things to do in Greater Victoria

FRIDAY Find Mr. Nutcracker and his cousin Tommy Tempo as they visit… Continue reading

Uptown’s Christmas Tree Light Up is Saturday night

Uptown assembling 54-foot-tall tree for fifth annual Light Up

Nasty note on B.C. windshield sparks online outrage

Vernon’s Bailey McDonald is using a painful experience to start conversation about invisible illness

Federal funding to combat guns, gangs and opioid crisis

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said illicit drugs are often main cause of guns, gangs violence

Riverview youth mental health centre proceeds

Replacement for Maples Treatment Centre first announced in March

Dead boy’s father posts Facebook response after Appeal Court upholds conviction

David, Collet Stephan were found guilty in their son Ezekiel’s 2012 death from bacterial meningitis

Most Read