The subject of, if, how or when to access your pension when you have been diagnosed with cancer is something that some cancer patients may need to consider, especially if their diagnosis might not have the best outcome.
“For many of us in life, we have this assumption of retirement and pensions and what that might look like, but you don’t think it will ever really come until a certain point in time. For those who get cancer at an earlier age, the thought of getting your pension is a lot to take in and is the last thing you might consider.”
For Stephen this was very much the case.
“That was the last thing I wanted, it was me accepting my cancer and that was me dying, but in hindsight it was the best thing I did! Initially I didn’t want to leave my work, as I loved my job…I also didn’t know what I had or what I would get once I retired, I guess a lot of people my age wouldn’t. I also thought about my wife and how she would be able cope being the only one to bring in an income.
We just thought, let’s just look and see and we were totally gobsmacked when we saw it, I realised I could live a normal life based on my pension. By going ahead and taking it, I was able to focus on my recovery and I could keep up my routine of fitness and my exercise that I would never have been able to do if I was back working.”
Stephen, however, only found out about access to his pension after coming across Beatson Cancer Charity’s Specialist Health and Work Service and the advice they gave him. The team explains how it can be considered as an option.
“A lot of the reasons why we are at work is for the income, but in fact if you can get the right advice on your pension, it is an option to take. We see a lot of people with cancer continuing going to work, based on the idea that they think they have to, and they are under pressure and struggling for money. But the irony is, it’s not an option that is being put out there due to all our assumptions around it. There’s a finality to getting a pension, but in fact that is not the case. For us it’s about saying to our client it’s there and it’s an option for you, it doesn’t need be a negative topic."
Stephen was in the position where he loved his job and was able to return to his work on a voluntary level being selective about when he can help out, while also having his own personal routine.
“I guess about 90% of cancer patients around my age may not have that choice because of the type of job they do. But there are other options out there like volunteering or getting involved in an activity you always wanted to do.
If I was ever in the position where I did become cancer free and had the option to go back to my job, I would probably just continue doing what I’m doing now. My life now is just about doing what makes me feel happy and not stressing about everything else. I never thought I would say that, but it’s true.”
For Stephen going down this route, he was able to focus more on his recovery, instead of having to worry about work. He was in a lucky position that he had other interests, which he realises some other people might not and thinks it’s important for those people to have some sort of meaningful activity they can focus on and to be given that information.
“I do see the whole situation as a positive, however if I hadn’t come across the service for the advice, I think I would have gone down the same route eventually but it would have been a lot more traumatic and stressful. So, getting the advice and support really opened my eyes to why it could be positive.
Also I honestly believe if I hadn’t retired through ill health I wouldn’t be here. Getting my pension meant I was able to focus on my recovery, I could have been a lot more ill if had continued my work throughout my treatment. It was just being able to have the time to deal with things.”