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Receiving a cancer diagnosis “is nothing short of a financial wrecking-ball,” says Andrea Brownless (above, bottom right), Macmillan Guide and member of Virgin Money’s credit card team. In fact, Macmillan’s research suggests that, on average, people are £570 a month worse off as a result of a cancer diagnosis.

But the problem doesn’t end there. The pandemic has meant that over half a million people in the UK have experienced financial difficulties, leaving more than 100,000 people with cancer struggling to pay for basic essentials such as food or their mortgage.

That’s why we’ve teamed up with our charity partner of the year, Macmillan Cancer Support, to launch a bespoke service for customers affected by cancer. We’ve trained up customer-facing colleagues to become Macmillan Guides who will provide vital emotional support, information and signposting to other sources of help available and do whatever it takes to make sure anyone with cancer can live life in a way that’s as problem-free as possible.

Andrea has her own unique experience of cancer: she lost both her parents, sister-in-law and aunt to the disease and has faced the pain it can cause first hand. “I feel very privileged to have been given the opportunity to become a Macmillan guide,” she says. “Over the years I’ve seen my family and friends be afflicted by this cruel disease and, although you build up a certain resilience you are never fully prepared for the news of a diagnosis. I am by no means an expert on how cancer affects people, but I have sympathy with people’s situations, emotions, feelings; I’m never judgemental. I feel I can offer a glimmer of hope to help support and just generally have that listening ear at all times. Life is not easy.”

Michelle Moulds, meanwhile, volunteered to become a Macmillan Guide at Virgin Money’s Fargate Store after previous experience volunteering as a receptionist at a local Rotherham Hospice. She says: “I wanted to offer my time and support to our customers living with cancer and their families; this could involve offering financial support, signposting to Macmillan services or simply listening in a quiet corner,” she says. “It makes me feel really proud to think that I could make someone feel better, if only for a short period of time.”

Our guides will listen to customers, understand their needs and provide personalised support. We recognise that no customer’s experience will be the same, so nor should our service be. “I believe this initiative is vitally important as people can often feel like they are on their own when diagnosed with cancer,” says Andrea. “My advice to others in these circumstances would be to take offers of support, don’t turn people away, but always know whatever you do, don’t judge yourself. It’s okay to not be okay and to admit to yourself that this is the case.”

What’s really helpful after a diagnosis is clear-headedness, she thinks. “I think it is so important you have the support of someone who can detach themselves from the situation and act as an impartial observer, just so you don’t miss any important information. Your head ends up full of ‘stuff’ and nothing makes sense and that is why I believe the Macmillan Guides is such an important initiative.”

Up to 50 colleagues from across Virgin Money are taking part in the Macmillan Guides programme. If you need help from one of our Guides, you can ask to speak to a Macmillan Guide when you call our contact centre or visit one of our stores, and for more information, click here.

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