Ray of hope at time of despair


Rhian Waller

IMAGINE you have just been diagnosed with a life-threatening disease and you then find out you are at risk of losing your home.

Meinir Siencyn, 35, originally of Mold, faced this very scenario when doctors discovered she had breast cancer a year ago this week.

“It was a year to last Wednesday,” she said. “It was a huge shock. I wasn’t expecting it. My first worry was that it had spread anywhere because my father died nine years ago after he developed cancer.

“Of course, they want to treat you as soon as possible so I was put on chemotherapy very quickly. The faster that happens, the                                             better your chances are.”

Meinir, a self-employed camera woman, and former pupil at Glanrafon and Maes Garmon schools in Mold, had very little time to get her affairs in order.

She said: “Being self-employed, you don’t get sick pay. I had a summer of jobs lined up and all of a sudden I was having to ask the medics if I’d be able to do them, and how soon the treatment would be over.

“I thought it might be a few months but I was told it would probably take a year.”

Initially, Meinir thought she could fight through the chemotherapy, which can cause extreme nausea and fatigue in many patients as it is designed to kill cells in the body – but she was forced to cancel upcoming jobs.

She said: “I did think I could work a couple of days a week... but that was until the third week of treatment. Chemo has an accumulative effect – it wears you down – and they put me on harsher drugs.

“Even if you have good days, because of my job, I can’t expect people to reschedule a shoot around me. And as soon as you start feeling better, you’re on to the next wave of treatment. I can’t describe the pain of chemotherapy.”

Meinir is an extreme sports fan whose job has seen her follow the Mountain Biking World Championships around the globe, who has filmed from helicopters, worked on S4C documentaries, worked with artists as diverse as Wrexham band We Are Animals and Gruff Rhys of the Super Furry Animals, most recently on his film American Interior.

Despite living an active life, including teaching clog-dancing at the Daniel Owen Centre in Mold, Meinir suddenly found it difficult to move her heavy camera kit around.

She said: “I went to the mortgage people and explained my circumstances and asked if I could go on to an interest-only payment – but they wouldn’t budge.

“That really shook me. I was in a situation when I was worrying about paying the bills, let alone the mortgage. It’s the last thing you need when you're ill. I thought I’d be able to concentrate just on fighting the disease and getting better. But I had to think about money too.”

Fortunately for Meinir, MacmillanCancer Support were on hand to offer advice.
She said: “As soon as you are diagnosed, you are assigned a breast care nurse.

“Mine put me in touch with Macmillanand said: ‘Talk to those people’. They helped talk me through the forms to get a Macmillangrant and also employment and support allowance.”

Even then, Meinir warned, the situation was not easy.

She said: “I was on the phone to the authorities for an hour at a time to sort out the support allowance, which is difficult when your mouth is blistered and bleeding and you’re forgetful because of the chemo.

“You do the forms yourself but I wouldn’t have known what was available without MacMillan, let alone where to start."

Meinir, who now lives in Llanberis, was allowed just enough to help cover her part of the mortgage and also insure her partner on their car so he could drive her to hospital and back.

She was treated at Glan Clwyd Hospital and Ysbyty Gwynedd, and the gruelling treatment involved a lumpectomy, strong chemotherapy and a course of radiotherapy.

She said: “It has still been a struggle to get by financially but the support was a lifeline which enabled us to keep the house. It also made sure I could eat.

“The last thing you want to worry about when you’re fighting an illness is money – but it is important.

“When you’re ill, you’re told to eat healthy, fresh food but you can’t if you don’t have enough money to afford it. They tell you to have a healthy lifestyle but you can’t if you don't have enough money to pay for basic things like heating.”

Meinir praised the service offered by the cancer support charity.

She said: “I was lucky to have a nurse who knew where to point me and luckily Macmillanwere there to help.

“They give you the information you need basically to live your life. Every case is different, every cancer is different.”

For now, Meinir is concentrating on getting her life back in order.

She said: “I’ve started working again this week, which is good. It’s a great feeling to get back to it.

“I’m getting there. I still feel tired and my memory’s been affected. It will take a while to get over that but I'm keeping positive. I’m grateful for the lifeline Macmillanoffered me.”

l  To find out more about Macmillan Cancer Support and the services the charity offers, visit www.macmillan.org.uk or call 0808 808 0000.

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