Energy bills crisis: Terminally ill mum struggling to save money for winter and her own funeral

Terminally ill mum with cancer energy bills crisis. (SWNS)
Mum-of-one Melanie Finlay, who is juggling terminal cancer with the energy bills crisis, pictured on the right with son Joseph. (SWNS)

A terminally ill mum with bone cancer has spoken about the challenge of having to save for winter energy bills as well as her own funeral during the cost of living and energy bills crisis.

Melanie Finlay, 48, doesn't know if she will live to see the next Christmas with her son Joseph, seven, after being diagnosed with stage four metastatic cancer – a type that spreads – in March 2021.

While she is planning to cut back on using the heating, she also says the cold exacerbates the pain she suffers with from her condition.

Finlay was first given the all-clear from breast cancer in 2019, with discomfort in her bones being dismissed as just hormonal in 2020.

But the mum-of-one, who worked for Police Scotland until she was signed off sick last year, is now receiving palliative (end of life) care for cancer in her bones, lungs, hips, knees and bone marrow.

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Melanie Finlay with husband Tom and son Joseph. (SWNS)
Melanie Finlay with husband Tom and son Joseph, who she is selflessly preparing finances for. (SWNS)

Despite the situation she is in, she is having to think about wrapping up her finances to make life easier for her husband Tom, 43, and is meeting with a funeral director next week.

Finlay expects it will cost around £3,500 for a 'no-frills' crematorium ceremony, after the couple spent £3,000 on a budget wedding in April.

The family of three rent a two-bed flat in Inverness, which costs around £550 a month and they have a pre-paid energy meter. They do most of their food shopping for yellow-label discounted goods and have cancelled their Sky subscription to help save money.

While their gas and electricity previously came to around £300 a month, the latter is now costing nearly £100 a week alone, meaning Finlay is having to reduce how much she uses her much-needed electric wheelchair as a result.

Melanie Finlay getting married to Tom in April. (SWNS)
Melanie Finlay married Tom with a low-budget wedding in April. (SWNS)

"I've been saving up my money over the summer to pay off the funeral, nothing too elaborate," Finlay says selflessly.

"I've had to start wrapping my finances up so my husband isn't burdened with them when I'm gone.

"We're on a prepay meter with our gas and electricity so we're already penalised but we rent the flat so have no choice in that."

She is currently receiving weekly chemotherapy at hospital, as well as pain management through her care team at the Highland Hospice.

Finlay, who grew up in the north of England during Thatcherism, says she believes the crisis now is worse than in her childhood and feels like politicians have no interest in resolving it.

Despite the situation she is faced with, she desperately hopes to be able to visit family in the Lake District to say goodbye and create happier memories for Joseph.

Read more: How to check for breast cancer symptoms and detect the condition early

Melanie Finlay getting married to Tom in April. (SWNS)
Smiles-all-round on Melanie Finlay and Tom's special day. (SWNS)

But being forced to think about the more practical side of things, she adds, "We have got gas central heating but predominantly everything here is electric.

"Last winter we had the heating on low all the time, if we needed a boost we just turned it up.

"The likelihood of being able to do that this year is pretty slim – I've been buying blankets and hot water bottles."

And while they are trying to cut costs where they can, sacrificing comfort despite her health, there's only so much they can do.

"Stuff like 'go into the office' tips on how to save money won't work, Tom works from home so he can care for me," explains Finlay.

"There's always going to be somebody in the house. There is this attitude that you just need to ride it out.

"I grew up in north-west England during the Thatcher years and this is worse.

"I don't think the governments believe in it.

"The people running the governments are millionaires, they don't have to worry about money."

But worrying about money is exactly what Finlay is doing during this already challenging time.

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"I don't want to die, I want to spend time with my family and to give my child a good Christmas," she says.

"I don't want to rely on universal credit or PIP [personal independence payment] but it keeps us going."

Finlay has been having to make decisions like charging her electrical wheelchair less to save money.

"I have an electrical wheelchair, I don't use an oxygen machine," she explains.

"I charge that at home, I haven't been charging it as much as I should be."

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Her dreams, which included a trip to New York after not being abroad since 2011, will no longer be possible due to finances. Instead, the family try to make the most of days out together close to home.

"I'm hoping to go and see family in the Lake District before I go, it's just making sure we've got enough money," says Finlay.

"We don't have Sky and I cancelled subscriptions.

"I am one of thousands of people who are having to make these decisions."

She has praised her colleagues at Police Scotland for their constant support and checking in.

NHS Highland has been contacted for comment.

For more useful information see the NHS' website page on what end of life care involves and visit Hospice UK for advice and where to get support.

Additional reporting by SWNS.