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Parents with cancer at Christmas: 'It's exhausting'

From BBC - December 22, 2017

For Emma Young, Christmas is a time tinged with sadness - not that she will show it to her three children.

The 39-year-old was diagnosed in 2014 with incurable cancer in her breast and bones.

She says she makes sure Christmas is "everything it should be" for her children, who are 10, 13 and 18.

But she struggles with the thought that each Christmas could be her last.

"Every Christmas with the diagnosis is hard, very emotional," she says.

"I live every Christmas now as though it's my last, because you just do not know.

"In the back of your head you know you might not be here for other Christmases the kids may celebrate. It's really tough going.

"I kind of hold it in for the kids' sake, but it's exhausting."

How do you get work when your cancer wo not go away?

Thousands living with advanced cancer

'Cutting back'

Emma is among more than 350,000 parents in the UK with cancer who struggle to enjoy Christmas, according to Macmillan Cancer Support.

The charity says tens of thousands of mums and dads are unable to afford or eat a Christmas dinner with their family because of their illness.

Others are physically unable to decorate their homes or cannot afford presents for their children - leaving nearly 30,000 feeling like bad parents.

For Emma, her illness meant she could no longer work as a teaching assistant and instead had to rely on benefits.

She said this meant Christmas is not only challenging emotionally, but also financially.

Emma says she now saves all year for Christmas, buying presents throughout the year in various sales when the items are cheaper.

"Obviously you do not spend anywhere near this amount of money any other time of the year.

"It's a matter of saving up. It does not really stop, I just continually save all year.

"By September time I have got enough money to make a start.

"Then it's a matter of saving where you can. In the last few weeks I have been cutting back on our food shopping, saving 10 or 20 here and there that I can put towards Christmas...

"I will look in the sales, things that are reduced, stuff in January sales. You have no choice.

"There's no way in the world my kids would not have a decent Christmas."

Christmases for Clare Davis-Eaton, 43, and her two children used to involve "eating, drinking and being merry".

'Back to basics'

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