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I don’t want to be maudlin, but there are certain things in life that are never going to change: Being born, being ill, dying and taxes. But are You Prepared for the Unexpected? And do you have adequate insurance cover in place to help you cope if times get tough?

I read Carolyn’s heart wrenching story below with a lump in my throat, and expect that you might too. But in sharing her recent life changing experiences Carolyn hopes that you might, in some way, be able to prepare for the unexpected.

Prepare for the unexpected, have adequate insurance cover

Because in a dire situation Carolyn and her husband have been able to gain some solace from having the right insurance cover set up.

Over to Carolyn …

Make sure you have Insurance Cover

There are some things that most of us spend very little time thinking about. Things like preparing a will and buying life insurance tend to be a long way down our list of things to do because, well, who wants to think about death and everything that goes with it?


Prepare for the unexpected, adequate insurance cover

Carolyn and her hubby in Passau, Germany

But reading of Jo’s recent melanoma scare hit a very personal note with me and it made me want to encourage you to stop and think about the ‘what ifs’, including those that don’t result in death.

Spending a couple of hours planning for the unexpected can save you added stress in your time of need.

You see, back in May last year my fit, healthy 51 year old husband was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma in his scapula (shoulder blade).  No melanoma had ever been identified on his skin (and still hasn’t) so by the time the cancer was detected, it was already a secondary cancer.

Stage 4 melanoma.  The absolute most serious.

Our world crashed.

My husband needed urgent surgery to remove the tumour and the surrounding area of his scapula and to have a prosthetic piece inserted.  “You’ll never have full movement of your right arm again,” his surgeon told us, “and the recovery period will be five to six months.”

The surgeon was, however, confident that no additional treatment would be needed but he did encourage us to visit the Peter MacCallum Cancer Hospital in Melbourne so my husband could be placed on a melanoma watch list.

World turned upside down

After six weeks in a sling, and not being able to drive for three months, recovery and rehab were going well, and my husband was all set to go back to work in November, five months after his operation.

But a routine PET scan (at Peter Mac) just days before he was heading back to the office revealed the worst.  Two more tumours had appeared and once again, our world was turned upside down.

In the space of two months, from mid-November to mid-January, my husband endured two operations (one to fuse vertebrae in his neck which had fractured due to one of the tumours) and seven radiation treatments, as well as numerous other doctor’s appointments, scans and tests.

And all of this, including the initial surgery last year, took place in Melbourne – three hours’ drive from our home in regional Victorian.

Small consolation, but very important

Fortunately for us, amidst the huge emotional stress we were – and still are – going through, the one thing we didn’t have to worry about was money.

Why? My husband has been a financial advisor for over twenty-five years and he had planned for those ‘what ifs’.

What he had in place were two insurance policies: an Income Protection policy to cover his loss of income and a Trauma Insurance policy that pays out should the policy owner suffer a specified trauma.

Where life insurance pays out on death, Income Protection and Trauma insurance pay out whilst you are still alive.

In simple terms, here’s how they work.

Income Protection and Trauma Insurance Cover

Income Protection insurance replaces 75% of your gross income* for a specified time, in most cases until you reach age 65, if your doctor deems you unfit for work. (*Calculated on your income at the time of taking out the policy, which means the benefit payable in the future is guaranteed.)

Providing you have no exclusions on your policy for a pre-existing condition, Income Protection will pay out for almost any illness or injury that renders you unfit to work such as a broken leg, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Glandula Fever, etc.

With the average paid sick leave just 12 days per year, a long term illness or injury can have a devastating effect on your finances. Having a regular income coming in during your time off work certainly reduces any financial pressures.

Imagine not having enough money to buy the groceries or pay the mortgage whilst you’re going through such a traumatic time.

Income Protection insurance is available as a stand-alone policy or within most Superannuation policies.  Your financial advisor will help you determine which is most suitable for you.

Trauma Insurance pays out if the policy owner suffers a specified medical condition (around 40 conditions are covered) with 90% of claims being paid for cancer, stroke and heart attack.  The value of the policy (ie. what it pays out) is based on how much cover you think you’ll need (determined at the time of taking out the policy) to cover medical expenses and other expenses, for example house renovations to cater for a disability caused by the trauma.

Trauma Insurance is paid out in a lump sum.

It won’t ever happen to us

Even though we had these insurances in place, neither my husband or I ever thought something like this would happen to us. And we certainly hadn’t given much thought to the additional costs associated with a serious illness.

Since May last year, we must have made at least 30 trips to Melbourne and spent at least 45 nights in hotels and apartments – costs we’ve had to pay.

There have also been other expenses like paying someone to mow the lawns and do other household maintenance jobs that hubby would normally do.

I’ve also been my husband’s full time carer for much of that time as the various surgeries have meant he hasn’t been allowed (or able) to drive for six months, shower himself, or even do simple things like drying the dishes.

Had I not been self-employed, I would have had to give up my job, thereby sacrificing my income.  Sure, I haven’t given my European travel blog as much time as I’d like in recent months, but the beauty of websites is that you can work on them anywhere, anytime.

Optimistic and moving on

On a positive note, hopefully things are now on the up.  Hubby is now on a relatively new treatment called Immunotherapy which he receives intravenously every three weeks.  There have been excellent results so far in other patients who have been treated with the drug, so it all sounds promising.

It will be still be a little while until we know what effect the treatment is having, and probably another few months until my husband returns to work.  In the meantime, we don’t have to fret about him returning to work soon as his salary is being replaced by the Income Protection policy and we also received a lump sum payment from his Trauma insurance policy.

So next time you think “It won’t happen to me”, take a minute to think “What if it does?”  How will you cope financially?

  • – Without a regular income can you afford your mortgage repayments and general living expenses?
  • – Can your partner afford to give up work to care for you?
  • – How will you cover other regular expenses like car loans and school fees?
  • – Can you afford transport and accommodation expenses if you need to travel to receive medical treatment?

These are just some of the questions you should ask yourself.

Dealing with a serious illness or injury is like being on an emotional rollercoaster but financial stress can be just as debilitating as emotional and physical stress. You can, however, put steps in place to ensure that financial pressure is one kind of stress you don’t have to deal with.

prepare for the unexpected, adequate insurance cover, picAdequate insurance cover is so important.

In her post about melanomas and staying sun smart, Jo encouraged everyone to get a skin check – wise words indeed.

I encourage you to re-visit your insurance coverage and make sure you have adequate insurance cover in place in case of the unexpected.  

I truly hope you’ll never need it, but life does have a habit of throwing up curve balls now and again as Jo and I have recently found out!

Tips and Hints

If you don’t have a financial advisor, the Financial Planning Association website is a good place to find one.

Ed’s Note: Don’t forget that travel insurance is also really really important if you’re jetting off somewhere nice. Too many people take a chance and travel without it. Be prepared for the unexpected when you travel too. We’ve used Covermore in the past when we’ve travelled overseas, and been very happy with the cover provided.

Disclaimer: The above information is of a general nature only.  You should speak to a financial advisor who will help you to decide on the most appropriate cover for your own situation. We accept no liability for advice or action taken from third party websites. Please read our Disclaimer.

I’d like to say a Very Big Thank You to Carolyn for sharing this incredibly personal post, and wish her husband all of the very best for his future treatment and recovery.

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Showing 10 comments
  • SmartInsure

    This is a great story that illustrates the difference when you do have the right insurance cover, unfortunately there are all too many stories which don’t have the same outcome. Insurance is generally sold than bought so this makes it harder for people to access the right products and information themselves. Carolyn was lucky she had such a good adviser.

    • Johanna

      I agree, getting the right advice is paramount.

  • Reply

    Sorry to hear about your friend. I hope the outlook is a positive one.

  • Reply

    Thanks so much for publishing my story, Jo and for your best wishes.

    Insurance premiums are something that most of us – including me – hate paying but I can honestly say it has turned out to be the best money we have spent. A bit of peace of mind at a difficult time certainly helps 🙂

    • Johanna

      A pleasure, Carolyn – I think peace of mind is vital at difficult times.

  • Reply

    Oh dear, so sorry to read this. And I’m having a bit of regret as I just gave up the Trauma cover… I felt the premium was very high and the potential payout not huge… but may just revisit in light of this and a dear friend’s recent diagnosis too.

    • Johanna

      Hi Seanna, oh I know it’s always such a juggle and worry whether or not to do this or not because of the premiums. I hope your friend is doing okay?

  • Johanna

    Just to say how much I appreciated Carolyn digging deep emotionally to write this post and how we wish her husband all the very best during his treatments, and hope for his complete recovery.

  • Deb

    It’s hard being prepared for the unexpected and you never know what will happen. Carolyn makes some good points. I really hope her husband is okay and recovers with the treatment he’s having.

    • Johanna

      Hi Deb, yes, Carolyn makes some excellent points, and she certainly made me think too. On the whole I believe that we can be prepared as much as we can – with funds we have available – not everyone is able financially to keep on top of every eventuality – but some forethought is good. Likewise, my thoughts go out to Carolyn and her husband and best wishes for his recovery.

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