Oct 1 2010 by Denis Brown, Perthshire Advertiser Friday
WHEN two former school pals who hadn’t seen each other for 20 years ended up living next door to each other, it seemed like fate.
In 2003, Linda Glen couldn’t believe her luck when she moved to North Muirton and discovered her next-door neighbour was Alison McCallum.
“Alison and I were close friends at Perth High School in 1971 but we lost touch when she moved out of Perth about 20 years ago,” said Linda.
“I was so happy to see Alison again after so long and living right next door too. It was brilliant.”
But in more recent times, the reconnected pair have been living though respective nightmares – Alison with secondary breast cancer and Linda’s partner, Andrew Sheppard, dying of cancer.
A retired labourer and heavy smoker, Andrew (70), had been feeling unwell for several months.
By the time Linda persuaded him to see a doctor late last year and cancer was diagnosed, his body was riddled with the disease.
Less than 12 weeks later, her partner of 23 years was dead.
“Andrew’s death was a massive shock. I was just coming to terms with the fact that he had cancer when he died,” she said.
“It was a horrible time but I don’t know what I would have done if Alison hadn’t been there for me. She came over every day and we’d just sit and chat.”
In addition to their mutual support, the pair also sought assistance from the Macmillan Tayside Welfare Benefits Partnership, which helped them wade through red tape when applying for social benefits.
Since its inception last September to assist vulnerable people affected by cancer, the service has helped 480 people in Perth and Kinross claim a total of £1.223million in benefits.
A Macmillan spokesman explained that cancer patients or carers who had worked all their lives often did not realise they were eligible for financial assistance.
Officers helped identify benefits and hardship grant entitlements, fill in complex forms and appeal unsuccessful applications.
Alison (51), who was assisted with securing a higher rate of Employment Support Allowance (ESA), as well as Disability Living Allowance, said before contacting Macmillan she had been at her wits’ end.
“When you’re diagnosed with cancer, it’s such a difficult and confusing time and it’s hard to keep on top of everything,” she said.
“Having someone come to my home to fill out the complicated benefits forms took such a lot of the pressure off my shoulders. It was a huge help.”
Meanwhile, an adviser helped Linda (53) apply for carers allowance and Andrew for an attendance allowance, also assisting Linda appeal an ESA application refusal.
“It was a weight off my mind,” she said.
Still mourning Andrew, who died earlier this year, Linda said she was just living day to day.
But helping her cope as ever is Alison, who drops in every day for a cuppa and a chat.
“I honestly don’t know what I would have done if Alison wasn’t here, I don’t think I would have stayed in this house,” she said.
“Alison’s a true friend, one of my best friends.”
l Contact Macmillan Tayside Welfare Benefits Partnership on 01382 431173.