A couple from Westgate whose lives have been turned upside down by a devastating cancer diagnosis say they now also face a financial struggle to stay afloat.
Last month residential care worker Tara Ahmed, 28, was diagnosed with Triple Negative invasive breast cancer. This is an uncommon form of breast cancer that is usually more aggressive and harder to treat than other types.
It’s known as triple negative because it lacks three molecules called receptors which are for oestrogen, progesterone and epidermal growth. This presents an issue as the most effective breast cancer treatments work by targeting receptors.
Treatment for the triple negative cancer means radiotherapy, chemo and/or surgery.
Tara started a four month course of chemo at QEQM Hospital in Margate today (November 15).But, because her chemo sessions are once every week – then reducing to fortnightly -Tara will not be strong enough to continue working during this time.
Wife Adele, also 28 and a care residential worker, said: “One day Tara gave herself a check and found something and I told her to book an appointment. She kept saying it was nothing but I told her to do it anyway. We went to the hospital and she had a mammogram and biopsy and then eight days after that we went to Kent & Canterbury Hospital and they gave the diagnosis.
“The stage we are at now is starting chemotherapy. Tara is also one of 1600 women who have been offered a new drug treatment (called Pembrolizumab) which has a better outcome. This meant the chemo started later than planned because she had t wait so she could have the drug too.
“The triple negative cancer is quite progressive. Tara does get down but she is trying to stay positive and has been blogging about her journey.”
Tara and Adele met when they both started Year 7 at Ursuline school in Westgate and became the best of friends. Over time this blossomed into a relationship and the pair moved into their Westgate home.
In January 2020 Tara and Adele were married but could not go on their honeymoon to Greece until this year due to the covid pandemic restrictions.
Adele said: “We go about our lives thinking our loved ones are invincible and that it’s something that will never happen to you. Tara is just 28 years young. I’m truly heartbroken, afraid and feel totally helpless.
“Since receiving this terrible news, Tara has remained so positive, and her sheer strength and faith has me in awe. She has such an immense determination and desire to fight this dreadful disease and I’m so proud of her each and every day.
“Her bravery astounds me and she has even began blogging her journey on social media – she is just at the beginning of a long and tough journey ahead. Intense chemotherapy will last for four months. The goal is to shrink the tumour adequately enough for a lumpectomy to be performed.”
With Tara being unable to work while she is having treatment – although she has stayed at work up until this point- the couple now face a struggle to keep on top of living costs.
Tara is entitled to statutory sick pay but this equates to less than £400 per month. Claims for other sickness benefits could take up to three months to process and may well be rejected because Adele has an income.
Adele said: “Any chance of support or help from the government is highly unlikely due to the fact that I have an income: it is taking 3 months to process claims of which we’ll inevitably be told we have no entitlement. The system beggers belief and is a complete minefield which we are finding totally overwhelming.
“I desperately want to be home and supporting Tara every step of the way through her difficult journey and it breaks my heart I am going to have to work even longer hours to support us both.
“We rely on both our incomes for the rental of our flat, bills and food. I want Tara to focus on her health and recovery and not have to worry about whether we can afford to live.
“I am picking up all the overtime I can but I am panicking. I don’t want to be working all the time because I want to be at home with Tara.
“I don’t want to show the panic but I am struggling.”
The couple do have the support of family and a Macmillan Cancer Care nurse but are hoping that a recently launched fundraiser might help give them some financial security as well.
Adele said: “We are entering a recession with a huge cost of living crisis and times are tough for everyone but any donation no matter how small would be hugely appreciated in helping to relieve all the worry and burden of trying to exist.”
Adele hopes they may be able to raise enough to buy a good quality wig – which costs around £300 – as Tara has been told she will lose her hair during the chemotherapy treatment.
Adele, who has praised the NHS for her wife’s speedy diagnosis and tests, says if
Tara’s treatment is successful and there is money left over the couple will donate it to cancer charities.