"Like many chartered accountants established in their career, I'm a contractor. That means when I'm not working, I don't earn anything. Normally I would have built up a bit of a surplus, but it was the start of the recession so our finances were stretched anyway. I wasn't getting as many jobs as usual, which, as the sole bread-winner in our house was quite worrying. We have 4 school-age children and it costs a fair bit just to keep our household ticking along.

That was when I began to get quite ill. On Christmas day we went to church and I was feeling unwell. My wife said ‘you've gone yellow.' Luckily someone in the congregation was a doctor and he said ‘you've got to get to a hospital right now.' I went into hospital and didn't come out for 2 months. They told me I had a kind of cancer called non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and said I would need chemotherapy. It was looking like at least a year before I could work again.

I sold one of our cars, but it wasn't enough - all our credit cards were maxed out. I felt like there was nowhere to go and I was looking at defaulting on debts. It was then that CABA came to mind. They were very good and did everything they could to be helpful. They allocated a Support Officer and I met with him face-to-face to go through everything.

He didn't just offer debt management or whatever - he looked at the whole picture and offered support in a really joined-up way. CABA started dealing with the creditors for me - getting in touch, explaining the situation and putting things on hold. They also have specialists that know what benefits you can apply for and they helped me put the applications in. They also worked with me to plan a reasonable household budget and awarded me a grant to cover the shortfall until things got straight.

What I like about CABA is that if they don't know something, they go and find out. They know where to get the best advice. And there's no red-tape. Applying for a grant is so straightforward. Their efficiency really takes the stress away and the relief was enormous. Just to know that there's someone you can turn to, someone who sympathises and actually cares what happens to you and your family.

Without CABA it would have been pretty dire. We'd have had to rely on friends and family to give us money, and we'd have had to cut expenditure so radically the kids would have really felt it.

After I recovered from chemotherapy I sold our house and bought something much cheaper. Without CABA I'd have been forced to do that in the middle of treatment which would have been impossible to manage. And they're really proactive: for example, we had no garden at the new house and the case worker noticed. He suggested we apply for a bit of help to make a simple lawn. These things really improve the whole family's quality of life.

Since then I've had a relapse and I wasn't able to work for another 6 months. Again CABA helped us get through it. I was hesitant to ask, I thought maybe it would be too much, but they were great again. They seemed really glad to help.

We're in a better position now though, I have had a stem-cell transplant which has really improved my chances. I now have a 50% chance of staying cancer free, and I feel pretty well in myself. I'm in work again and I'm trying to move on mentally. As a family we feel a lot more stable again.

I would say, if you're struggling in any way, get in touch with CABA - it will make all the difference. For my family it made an impossible situation possible again."

*Some personal details of this client have been changed to protect their identity

How CABA can help

CABA supports the wellbeing of past and present ICAEW members, ACA students, ICAEW staff members, and their spouses, partners and children up to the age of 25. For advice, information and support please contact us.