Guest blog: ‘I beat cancer…but still struggled to get a mortgage for my home’

When Louise Forshaw was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer, her finances were the last thing on her mind. The mother-of-three was in constant pain and endured the indignity of losing her long hair as she bravely underwent course after course of gruelling chemo and radiotherapy.

Louise also had to suffer the emotional and physical scars of having a mastectomy and surgery to remove lymph nodes after the invasive disease spread to her arm.

But it was only when her husband Gavin Naylor, 35, had to leave the job he loved as a joiner to look after her full-time that the family’s crushing financial woes started to hit home.

Louise, 43, said: “You don’t think ‘what if I get cancer next week, how am I going to afford everything?’ but the cancer doesn’t care. You’ve still got the gas, electricity, water, TV licence and all of the rest of the bills to pay, and I was just fighting for my life.”

Louise is one of thousands of cancer patients in the UK whose cancer caused financial hardship. MacMillan Cancer Support estimates the majority (83 per cent) are £570 worse off every month as a result of their diagnosis – equating to a massive £6,800 per year.

Too ill to work, cancer patients also face additional outgoings such as paying for travel to and from hospital, as well as car-parking charges.

Those with cancer can often feel the cold more, and one in five see their annual energy bills increase by £200 on average, according to the charity’s research.

Louise, who lives in Preston, Lancashire, with Gavin, daughter Melissa, 12 and son Dylan, seven, was given the all clear after being cancer free for three consecutive months, four years after her initial diagnosis. Gavin had returned to the job he loves two years previously, and the family are working hard to clear the debts built up during this torrid period of Louise’s life.

They were looking forward to buying the council house home she’d “fallen in love” with when she moved in 17 years ago. However, because of her less-than-perfect credit record, she was denied a mortgage on the £90,000 council house.

“We wanted to look ahead and provide for our children’s future,” said Louise. “So I telephoned our bank, and told them about the cancer and the fact I had adverse credit, they said they wouldn’t even check if I could have a mortgage. They told me that I could have it in my husband’s name, because of his good credit but that we couldn’t have a joint mortgage. We were devastated.

“After all we’d been through as a family and we still couldn’t buy our own home and had to continue throwing money down the drain by renting our house.”

Louise’s son Jack, 22, also a joiner, had just bought his own property and put his mum and his stepdad in touch with his mortgage adviser, Tony Medley. The adviser took the case to Together, a Manchester-based finance company, which specialises in right-to-buy mortgages.

She said: “We were told that Together would listen to the story behind our circumstances and make a decision based on common sense, rather than saying ‘no’ straight away. It took some time, carefully checking all the details but now we own the house and we’re not throwing money away anymore.”

Louise and Gavin managed to purchase the property for £44,100 because of their right-to-buy discount and Together provided a 25-year fixed rate mortgage, meaning the family pay £250 less a year in mortgage repayments than they would renting their council house.

“When we’d found out it had been done and we’d got the mortgage, the excitement was absolutely amazing. It’s thanks to Together for giving us the opportunity to explain our situation, to listen to our story. It was so different from other mortgage lenders who just do a credit check and say ‘no’”, said Louise.

“We’ve now got critical illness cover, life insurance and cover for if the children are poorly – we are covered for everything and the property is ours.”

Louise added: “It’s brilliant no longer being a council tenant and owning your own bricks and mortar. It’s been a really positive experience, following the worst experience of our lives.”

Pete Ball, personal finance CEO at Together, said: “There are people up and down the country who are being denied the chance of owning their own local authority home because they may have suffered an illness which may have had an impact on their credit record. As a responsible mortgage lender, we will look into each of our customer’s backgrounds on an individual basis, as we did in Louise’s case, allowing her and her husband to purchase the home they love as an investment for their family’s future.”

For more information visit www.togethermoney.com

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