I was diagnosed with bowel cancer in September 2009. I was used to living on a very limited income. At the time, I’d been working 36 hours a week at a supermarket for a few years.
I had to have bowel surgery for the cancer, with a temporary colostomy, and when I recovered from that I had to have chemo three times a week for six months. I was too sick to work.
Once I’d used up all my sick leave, I applied for sickness benefits. I thought I’d be able to go back to work once I was fixed up, so I kept using my credit card. That’s how I got caught in the credit trap. The card had a $24,000 limit, and I ended up with a $24,000 debt.
I never went back to work, because I kept needing more surgery – I had more bowel surgery with a permanent colostomy, then liver surgery and lymph node surgery. Every time it would take weeks to recover from the surgery, then there would be months of chemo. It’s been a neverending story.
Because I’ve been so sick, there was no way for me to repay that credit card debt. As a general rule, you hear that once people are in the credit trap, they can’t get out of it, but I called Cancer Council and ended up speaking to a financial counsellor. She helped me sort things out with the bank. My lifestyle went from unmanageable to manageable – it meant I could actually look after myself financially.