This is George – but you might know him as Tommy, a dad-of-two who couldn’t afford to take time off to recover after cancer treatment.
Actor George Drever featured as Tommy in our hard-hitting social media campaign, aimed at changing the inconsistent system of cancer support that lets so many people down.
We wanted to use actors to tell the real stories of people with cancer because we were, rather unusually, asking people to vote for who deserved support.
Of course the vote wasn’t real. It was just a way of catching people’s attention and highlighting that right now whether or not someone gets support is all too often down to luck.
This is something George understands all too well.
In a slightly surreal twist, the experience of his character Tommy mirrored that of his partner Lynn who not only worked during chemotherapy, but only stumbled on support that she describes as being a “life-saver” after a chance comment.
Lynn was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2015.
She had to undergo chemotherapy, a mastectomy and radiotherapy to treat the cancer.
Although her bosses were supportive, Lynn knew she was only entitled to six-months of full pay while she was off sick.
Knowing she and George would struggle to cope financially once her pay was cut, she worked during chemotherapy until she felt so ill she couldn’t continue.
George said “I think she thought was superwoman and could just keep going. It was okay at first but as the weeks went on the treatment just began hitting her harder and harder. It got to a point we knew she just couldn’t carry on.
“The worrying thing is that we know Lynn was actually quite lucky to get six months pay. Lots of employers don’t give staff anywhere near that amount of time.
“When the chance came up to play Tommy, it was something I really wanted to do as I know some people face really tough financial situations when they should really be just thinking about getting better.”
Just like Tommy, Lynn didn’t receive an assessment of her support needs and wasn’t officially directed to any emotional, financial or practical help.
It wasn’t until well into her treatment and at what she describes as “rock bottom” that she by chance discovered the Cornhill Macmillan Centre in Perth.
Lynn said: “The problems cancer causes aren’t just medical. When it comes to dealing with the tumour there is a great team. But it’s all the other things you need help with.
“I was absolutely devastated to lose my hair. It was really long and dark and thick. It was probably the most distressing thing that happened when it all came out in one day.
“I felt that I didn’t just lose my hair, I Iost my identity. I looked in the mirror and saw the stereotypical bald cancer patient.
“I felt like cancer took away who I was. I couldn’t work, I didn’t look this me, I couldn’t play roller derby which had been a big part of my life, and friends I thought I could rely on disappeared.
“George went from my partner to my carer. We realised we wouldn’t be able to have children.
“Family and friends want to help but you don’t want to put it all on them.
“I had so much going on in my head but had no idea there was help available.
“Someone just happened to mention that I could get support at the Cornhill Macmillan Centre. I don’t even know who told me about it. It was just a comment in passing.
“I desperately needed help so I decided to go along. I can honestly say if I hadn’t found the centre I wouldn’t have recovered the way I have. It was a life-saver and a sanctuary.”
Through the Macmillan centre, Lynn was referred to a Macmillan benefits advisor who helped her claim the Personal Independence Payment which helped cover some of the additional costs of cancer, such as travelling to hospital.
She got emotional support and special make-up lessons from a Macmillan Boots No 7 make-up artist trained to work with women who’ve had cancer.
She also went to a group where gentle exercise was used to help people with cancer recover physically as well as mentally.
She said: “A chance remark led me to a place where I got the support that helped me become me again. When I went there I was at rock bottom. It’s quite scary to think where I’d be if I’d been less lucky.
“I probably wouldn’t be back at work and wouldn’t be able to play roller derby. Both these things are such big parts of who I am.
“Cancer takes your identify from you and the right support is needed to get it back. That’s too important to be left to chance.”
Email your election candidates to demand better support for people with cancer.
Find out about the support available if you or someone you love is going through cancer.