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A woman with a terminal cancer diagnosis has been forced to live in a van with her pets after being evicted when she was unable to pay her rent.

Suzanna Jones, 58, was a truck driver travelling across Europe until an injury put a halt to her beloved career.

Unable to afford the rent on her modest rented Victorian chapel house in Caernarfon, Wales, she was evicted in March 2021, reports Wales Online.

Suzanna is now living in a tiny van, with her three hens, three quails, dog and cat, while her entire life is crammed into two 20ft storage containers.

To exacerbate the already desperate situation, Suzanna has devastatingly been diagnosed with stage four cancer. Professionals have not yet been able to identify the source of the cancer but Suzanna says she has tumours on her lungs, chest, neck, and head.

“My life was wonderful – I was enjoying myself," she said. “It was a fantastic wage. I was living a great life and loving every minute of it.

Suzanna has been living in a van since she was evicted in March this year
(Image: Hadyn Iball / North Wales Live)

"I’d been to parts of the country I’d never heard of, visited countries I could only dream of visiting, areas that no man would usually go to – I’ve had a wonderful trucking life. I managed to accumulate a massive group of friends – a trucking family sort of thing."

In January 2019, at the end of a shift, the heavy iron gate of the truck yard blew back against her ankle bone – completely smashing it. It was left to heal but never did.

Not only could Suzanna no longer drive her beloved truck but she couldn't walk without a frame. She hasn't worked since.

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"Everyone had gone home and I was the last one there in the yard," said Suzanna of the night that would change her life.

"I went to shut the gate to padlock it and it was so windy that night. A gust of wind blew it across and smashed my ankle – trapping it underneath, twisting it. It was absolutely excruciating.

"I had a week off work and then tried to go back but it was just too much. After two days I was in agony again. That’s when I thought: 'There’s something really wrong here' and went to the hospital.

"It was quite a while after I’d done it. I needed the money and I liked my job and didn’t want to let the boss down so I put it off – you don’t have much time for doctors when you’re on the road."

Suzanna is reeling from the devastating news she has received
(Image: Hadyn Iball / North Wales Live)

Suzanna said that doctors initially thought it was an old injury that had been irritated by the knock from the gate so she was given a boot to use and told to rest.

But her foot never healed properly and complications set in. She went on an NHS waiting list but then the coronavirus pandemic cancelled routine procedures.

By then she was using a frame to get around and was convinced she would never walk properly again.

Unable to work, and spending days and months alone, Suzanna adopted her animals for company – initially 11 hens, three quails, a cat, and a dog. Most of the hens have now been fostered.

Without work she quickly burned through her savings and even by stretching her benefits as far as they could go, she was eventually unable to pay her rent.

"My savings lasted me until around the October or November and then I had to go to universal credit," explained Suzanna.

"My rent was £450 a month and I was getting between £500 and £600 – it just wasn’t enough to live. My phone and van cost more that per month so I had to make the decision not to pay the rent, water, council tax, or electric in order to eat and stay mobile and in contact with the outside world.

After being left unable to work, Suzanna was simply unable to afford her rent
(Image: Hadyn Iball / North Wales Live)

"I ended up not being able to pay my rent. At first I paid a little bit to show that I was trying but couldn’t afford the full payment and in the end I had to end up not paying it. I knew what the consequences of that would be but I had no choice."

Suzanna put her name forward for social housing but because she was still living in a home the council could not help.

After she was evicted, she was moved up the priority list but as she does have a van as 'accommodation' she is not deemed an urgent case.

And while she was given a place in an emergency shelter, she refused because they could not accept her animals.

"I am a country girl so the thought of living in a town, housing estate, or street filled me with dread," she said. "I would rather share my van with a few animals than a housing estate full of strangers.

"They are rescue hens so I wasn't having them go back into cages. They all have names and I love them all dearly as though they were my children. The hens have come such a long way since their days of horror and are happy now.

"I got them thinking I’d never have to get rid of them. So I decided I was going to keep my animals. I wasn’t going to leave them to go and live in a flat that I would have been unhappy in anyway. I’d rather live in my van with my animals."

While Suzanna says life in her van isn't as unbearable as many would think, and is no different to spending weeks in her HGV at a time.

Although there were a few teething problems when she initially took the plunge.

"My van isn't ideal as it is old and cold. It isn't equipped to live in really. I have just made the best of what I had," she said.

Suzanna is sharing her van with several animals
(Image: Hadyn Iball / North Wales Live)

Suzanna has split the van into sections – one for the hens, one for the quails, and one for herself, which she also shares with her dog and cat.

What's left is just enough room for a bed, and two small chest of drawers for Suzanna's things.

She's packed the rest of her belongings in two huge containers, costing £240 a month.

"It was an adjustment. At first it was absolutely freezing – really, really cold," said Suzanna. "I’ve got a tarpaulin over me now so I’m covered from the rain now but before I couldn’t even open the door of the van if it rained.

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"The bed I had was a bit too big so the door wasn’t shutting properly so every time it rained it rained in the bed. It was a bit miserable on those days. It was all a bit of a nightmare at first because it was literally thrown together.

"For the first month at least it was pretty difficult – it was freezing and I had no heat at all basically. I could set the generator up in the van to give a bit of heat but it's not brilliant and the waste of fuel just to have it ticking over all day just doesn’t work.

"On the day I moved out I had to makeshift the van into something that would fit the hens, the quails, the cat and the dog, and me – it was thrown together in an afternoon. Slowly since then I've adapted it a bit to better things."

Suzanna pays £100 a month to park her van on a piece of land, since it is not roadworthy
(Image: Hadyn Iball / North Wales Live)

Suzanna parks her van on a piece of land and pays the owner £100 a month.

But because she cannot afford to get an MOT on the van, the vehicle is not roadworthy so she cannot travel.

Suzanna said: "With the van being illegal I can't go to my containers, which are 15 miles away from where I am parked, to get any supplies like clean clothes or other items I need. My van is too small to fit everything I need so I am struggling.

"At the moment it’s better for me to leave the van in one place because having to pack it up every time I need to go somewhere is a pain in the neck. It's also good that the animals have a permanent space."

Desperate Suzanna has now set up a GoFundMe page, which has already raised over £12,000.

Suzanna said: "The money from the GoFundMe is what’s keeping me going – without that I won’t be able to live. For people to be so generous – I was blown away.

"I didn’t even think I’d get £500 let alone what I’ve got. It was such a long shot. When people were telling me to make one I was laughing at them thinking: 'Who’s going to help out a stranger?' but it’s been incredible.

"People tell me that my story is harrowing, that it made them emotional, but for me living in the van isn't the worst thing in the world. It’s the most amazing feeling to think that complete strangers are feeling compassion towards me. One person donated £5,000 in one go – I just thought: ‘Oh my God’."

It was in March, just before she moved into the van, that Suzanna discovered a lump on her neck.

After undergoing tests, Suzanna was given the devastating diagnosis that she had stage four cancer on June 10.

"Before I left the house I had noticed a lump in my neck but put it down to an infection somewhere or a swollen gland – although I wasn’t feeling like I had a cold or anything like that," she said.

Suzanna has split her van into three sections, and keeps all her belongings in two sets of drawers
(Image: Hadyn Iball / North Wales Live)

Further tests revealed that the cancer had spread to her lungs, neck, chest, and head. While more investigations will need to be done to discover its source Suzanna has been told it is stage four.

She said that her focus now is to make sure she spends time with her four children and three granddaughters. One of her sons lives in Sweden while her other children are based around London.

"It is difficult because I’ve got three young granddaughters who live miles away – one lives in Sweden – and I’m just terrified I’m never going to see them again.

"They’re only babies and I want to see my grandchildren grow up. I haven’t even seen my own children in a year.

Suzanna says that she hopes her fundraising will be able to help her visit Sweden and she wants to visit all of her family before she becomes too ill to do so.

She says that specialists are currently discussing treatment options but anything that can be offered will be on a palliative basis. Suzanna also says she would be reluctant to undertake such an option after witnessing her mother suffer from cancer.

"The doctor said that even if they pick out all the lumps because it’s in so many different locations they’d never get it all. So any treatment now will be palliative treatment," she said.

"At the moment I’m not sure if I want to go through with any of that because I watched my mother suffer with chemo and it just prolongs it. While I feel well I don’t see any point in making myself ill while I’m well. If I’m going to die anyway I don’t know if there's a point.

Suzanna is finding her diagnosis difficult to process
(Image: Hadyn Iball / North Wales Live)

"I can’t really process it enough to think about it because I don’t feel any different. I feel fine, I feel very fine in myself – obviously until I can feel any symptoms in myself I’m going to be in denial."

Universal Credit claims in coronavirus

March 1 – June 2

  • 3,139,060 individuals

  • 2,485,770 households

March 16 – June 2

  • 2,976,140 individuals

  • 2,349,260 households

Source: DWP management information. Not all claims will go on to receive a payment.

Even with the uncertainty about her own health she is still concerned about what will happen to her animals. She said she is concerned that she will soon have to rely on people if her health deteriorates and she is unsure about the future.

"Until it’s sunk in I can’t process it. I’ve got my animals here with me – my only worry is should something happen to me what would happen to them?

"If something happens to me and I’m on my own here that worries me. But people do know I’m here so if they don’t see me pottering around for a few days at least people know.

"I like being where I am so I haven’t even thought about whether or if I will leave now. I like being here but I am scared later on about being on my own without human contact in case I need some help with something, which I’m dreading.

"I’m stuck in limbo – I can’t feel anything properly."