There’s a forgotten demographic group in the UK that are more susceptible to long-term illnesses than others: single parents.
They work long hours; they are by and large financially self-sufficient and they are one of the most susceptible groups to slow-growing forms of cancer.
Claire Rothschild was juggling two part-time jobs and the care of two young children whilst a cancer was growing inside her, but why was it allowed the time to grow?
“When you’re raising kids by yourself you simply don’t have the time for these kinds of thoughts. When I split from my partner I didn’t have the luxury of having the kind of support network that other single mothers did. My parents passed away when I was a teenager, so I suppose you could say that I learned to support myself from a very young age. When I made the transition to single parenthood I found it easy to slip back into that state of independence – of course, it meant that I let a few signs fall under the radar.”
Kidney Cancer (otherwise known as renal cancer) is a condition that is rare in people under 50. It usually affects adults aged 60 and upwards, especially those who have lived unhealthy lifestyles, which is why Claire was surprised to have received the diagnosis from her doctor in 2016. Renal cancer is a slow-burning disease, it takes a long time to develop and spread, but that doesn’t make it any less serious than any other type of cancer.
“I felt so silly when the doctor told me what it was. I’d put off going to the GP for so long, inventing excuse after excuse: I had shopping to do, the kids needed looking after, it wouldn’t fit in with work. If I’d just faced up the fact that I was unwell I would got this diagnosis much sooner and been able to tackle this disease much quicker. But I did what a lot of people did and simply put it out of my mind.”
There are around 2 million single parents living in the UK many of whom, just like Claire, will be putting off seeing their doctor because they either don’t have the time or are scared about how a bad diagnosis could effect their life. A life-threatening or intensive illness can be an incredibly difficult thing for a single parent to face, especially when they don’t have a strong support network to guide them:
“I remember being so totally, completely frightened. Frightened that I wouldn’t be able to look after my children, that they might be taken away from me, most of all frightened that I might not live to see them grow up. Thankfully, I was helped significantly by a number of social groups and charities, which made the recovery process a lot easier than I thought it would be.”
Long-running charities such as Gingerbread and Family Lives exist to help single parents deal with the numerous challenges that they face. Charitable grants, educational courses and support groups exist to relieve single parents of stress, giving them a much needed emotional outlet.