Helping Sarah cope with cancer challenges

Sarah (aged 63) has been a self-employed garden designer for the past 12 years. After bringing up her child as a lone parent, she studied for a degree and then worked in IT. She has always loved gardening and following further studies, she moved away from the world of IT into helping people redesign and build their gardens.

She lives alone, in a remote rural location, in a rented property. The cottage itself is much larger than she needs, however the grounds are extensive and she uses them to grow the plants she supplies to customers as part of her garden design service.

Sarah was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year and underwent a mastectomy. Unfortunately, there have been complications post-surgery and she hasn’t recovered as quickly as was expected. This has resulted in her being unable to work for a considerably longer period than was originally expected.

Sarah sought advice from a local agency as she was struggling to meet payments on her credit card and they suggested that she contact Perennial. When we originally visited her at home, she explained that her son had helped her to apply for means-tested benefits because she had no income and no savings to fall back on. At this point none of her benefits had been awarded and she had been borrowing money from family and friends to meet all her essential expenditure. Her landlord was sympathetic to her situation and had already reduced her rent liability but with no income she was extremely concerned about how she would meet her next rent payment. In addition, she had no oil for heating or hot water and was having to use electric heaters for warmth. This in turn was increasing her electricity consumption.

During our first meeting we agreed a grant to meet her next month’s rent and a grant to purchase half a tank of oil. At our next visit we helped her to complete the medical questionnaire for her sickness benefit and a supplementary form for her housing benefit. At this time she mentioned that her washing machine had broken and because of the complications from the surgery she was struggling to do any washing by hand.  We agreed that she should instruct a local engineer to have a look but as it turned out the machine needed a replacement part which was no longer available due to the age of the appliance and so we agreed a further grant to replace this.

Unfortunately, the problems with Sarah’s surgery wound have persisted resulting in her having a drain fitted. She has battled an infection on and off for some months.

Most of Sarah’s benefits have now been awarded, however her sickness benefit (employment and support allowance) was awarded at the basic rate pending a medical assessment, which we recently attended with her and are currently awaiting the outcome. We will remain a part of Sarah’s recovery for as long as it takes, working with her, her family and the many agencies involved to ensure her health continues to improve and she can return to the work she loves as soon as possible.


If you know someone who needs help, find out more about Perennial’s free and confidential services for anyone who has worked, or works in the horticulture sector in the UK. This includes gardeners, nursery owners and workers, garden designers, landscapers, arborists, foresters, garden centre staff, commercial growers, turf maintenance specialists and many more.

Contact us today if you would like to find out more.