Fruit Of My Labour (No, Not The Kids)

Yesterday my friend Serene SMSed me with this message:

“Threez I’m buying the GE insurance policy that u r ‘fronting’ :)”

It made me really happy to read her message, because this was a friend who had not really thought about insurance or health checks before seeing me go through what I did. She’s in her twenties, a lovely, well-accomplished girl with a great future ahead of her. She deserves to be properly protected for any hiccups in life — nothing should stand in her way.

When I receive calls or emails or SMSes from friends and readers of this blog who are in their 20s and 30s and who have been diagnosed with breast, cervical or ovarian cancer, it crushes me. I have gotten over my initial shock that I was just 42 when I was diagnosed (I realise now, many, many women are diagnosed in their late 30s and 40s), but it still upsets me when a younger person gets the dreaded “Big C”.

I’ve been sharing with close friends about the products available out there — not because I get commission (though quite a few people have asked me to become a life planner, which makes me laugh out loud! I can’t even understand the documents!), but because if I can in some small way prevent anyone from having to go through what I did because of insufficient insurance, that would be a great reward for me.

In June, Great Eastern invited me to speak to their special group of planners who focus on families and women. The plans they promote help women to protect against health crises (not just cancer but heart disease, stroke and other common health issues), and also helps them plan for their children’s future.

Talking to Great Eastern's planners about the important role they play in helping women and families.

Catherine Ho, the lovely VP of marketing at Great Eastern, had me talk about my cancer experience and what I went through with my insurance. The core of the talk was 10 ways to handle cancer positively. I presented what I hoped was a funny yet honest account of what I experienced, and urged the planners to really get to know and understand their clients, because it is only through a real relationship that they can help these women.

Catherine Ho of Great Eastern (left) has a true passion for helping women that I greatly admire.

After the talk, I was very moved by the women and men who came up to talk to me. One lady told me, with tears in her eyes, that I was very blessed — her husband had not survived his cancer. A few asked me to explain what DCIS or Stage 0 cancer is, and why is it not always determined by the size of the tumour. They demonstrated a real desire to understand the disease — quite a number said they had clients who called them after a DCIS diagnosis, and they had no clue how to help. But after my sharing, they had a better idea.

Talking about life after cancer — major in the major stuff, like your family and kids.


Great Eastern’s Early Payout Critical Care was one of the first — if not the first to address this problem of early stage critical illness coverage. Before them, I had not heard of any other company having the cojones to insure against this — these days I am even more impressed because of the sheer number of DCIS and Stage 1 cases I come across through my blog and friends calling me. And once GE started, it seems the other insurance companies followed suit.

Serene’s not the first one to buy the EPCC plan since I started blogging and talking about it, and I hope she’s not the last. Just bridging that gap can make such a difference to a cancer patient. It’s peace of mind I would happily pay to have, if I could.

Today Is The First Day Of The Rest Of My Life

Who could make a sun and sky so perfect but God?

I woke up this morning to an amazing clear sky and a beautiful sun. There was a light breeze blowing and the air smelled so fresh and clean. This is what I imagine Heaven would be like.

One year ago today, at this time (8am as I am writing this) I was in Gleneagles Hospital being prepped for my mastectomy. The sky was pregnant with storm clouds when I left home, and by 8, it was raining sheets.

My heart is filled with gratitude and with joy that I am alive today. What the devil meant for evil, God meant for good. Losing all my breast tissue felt like hell for me that day, but today, one year on, I thank God for the wisdom of my doctor. Because the cancer cells were already present in so many of my milk ducts, had he tried a lumpectomy, I would now have not just a deformed breast, but I would have lived in fear that some cancer cell did not get caught and was multiplying happily in what was left of my breast. Instead, the removal of my breast tissue cleared every doubt, so much that I didn’t need chemo or radiation or even hormone drugs.

A tiny butterfly flew into our house and settled in a spot of sunlight. This photo captures how I feel sometimes.


Last week I had an opportunity to share my cancer story with the Women & Parent Advisory Teams of Great Eastern. I never imagined, one year after my cancer, that I would be talking to life planners. But that’s just how God works – you never really know what He’s putting you through something for. After my short presentation many of the life planners came to talk to me and ask questions. Some shared that they were very touched. One woman, whose husband died recently of cancer, cried as she told me how fortunate I was.

Seeing the reactions, I was in my heart grateful to God, because I knew that if these planners could understand what their clients are going through, or what their clients are trying to avoid — if they have a family history like mine — then, they would be better equipped to really help these women buy the kind of protection that gives them complete peace of mind.

French fries at the beach with Little B


One year on, I thank the Lord for the many hours and minutes I have had to share with my children. I am so grateful I get to be at home with them when they are awake. It has meant that sometimes I need to start my work at 10pm (and crash at midnight because I no longer have staying-up power!), but it’s worth all the moments they share their deepest wishes and worst fears with me, even as we do the most mundane things like supermarket shopping or dreaded homework!

Watching Taylor Swift in concert with Middle B was one of this year's big highlights.


I’m super, super glad that I can go to church every weekend and worship God! The weeks after my operation that I had to stay home and watch service on the Internet were some of my least favourite (though I have to thank God that I could listen to service at ALL!). I’m grateful that I could hobble back to church after a few months, and now, I don’t need anyone to hold my arm as I get to my seat.

Big B letting his baby sister's classmates turn him into a "muscleman". Love the good sport that he is!


I’m grateful for my husband, whose sweet face I stare at every night before I fall asleep (he’s always asleep before I am), who has been my driver, my cheerleader, my Magic Milo Maker, my joke-teller, my movie companion. I’m so happy I get to spend time with this awesome person God made just for me.

The man God gave to me


I did share this with the Great Eastern planners: One never knows if one will get cancer again. The only protection against it is to be prepared: eat well, rest sufficiently, manage stress and know that if God has brought you through it once, you can trust that He has your best at heart, always.

I thank God for this blog, through which I have met some of the bravest, most resilient women and men I have ever had the privilege to meet.

I pray in the next year I will be diligent to keep this blog going, and even hazard a meetup! (if everybody is game)

Thank you for being with me through the last 365 days of my life. I hope you’ll join me for another 365 and beyond.

The Vampires Strike Back (And Some Umpires Too)

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No, that’s not the vampire who called me. I wish!

The last 48 hours, my mobile has kept ringing. I am almost thankful my Blackberry Bold is on its last legs and the battery zaps out around 12 noon if I’ve engaged in more than 30 minutes of talk time.

The callers: friends or friends-of-friends who are insurance agents, determined to set me straight after reading the New Paper article yesterday about my failed claim for DCIS under my critical illness policies.

“You should have read the fine print” was quite a common (exasperated) response. “Everybody knows DCIS is not covered.”

I guess I am not everybody, then. And if you walk down the street and ask 10 people, if you can get 1 who can tell you what DCIS is, I’ll buy you two pints of Haagen Dazs Caramel Biscuit And Cream.

Other priceless responses from insurance agents included:

• “But this other plan covers you for DCIS what.” (erm, hello, that’s not the plan my agent sold me despite knowing my risk for breast cancer. That’s my whole point. Why did 3 agents sell me the same thing knowing I should buy something that covers me for every stage of cancer? And now that I have had DCIS and a mastectomy, can you get your other plan to cover me? If not, shut up.)

• “DCIS where got mastectomy one? No need lah, chemo and radiation can already, for DCIS and Stage 1.” (Okay lah, you get cancer across 5cm of your breast tissue and tell me if you want to take the risk of chemo vs removing the d*** cancer from your body.)

• “I can’t speak for Prudential but if you had bought from my insurance company you would get blahblahblah…” (Where were you when I was draining my hardearned cash into dud policies?)

But to their credit, some friends who are agents were upset for me, and gave me some great tips, including:

• Don’t surrender my policies yet. Surrendering is a sure way of losing out because the break even point is something like 15 years or above. I am only considering cashing out one policy, but we’ll see how it goes, now that I have sincere advice, I am not rushing into anything just yet.

• Make sure my hospitalization plans (Medishield Plus) are auto-renewed. Any lapse in payment will make your policy null and void. And don’t be too confident that your GIRO/CPF “automatically” went through. My friend Karen (from Great Eastern) gave me an example of a CPF-deducted plan in which CPF did not automatically transfer the annual premium to the insurance company, and this lady who had cancer could not claim for her hospitalisation.

• Looking out for my children’s plans. Make sure your children are covered for hospitalisation. My Three Bs are all included in my Medishield Plus policies. I will be going through them with my financial planner to make sure they’re water-tight.

But the call I didn’t expect that came, and made me glad, was my woman Prudential agent. She explained that the terminology that doctors use in their post-surgery reports is the only source upon which decisions are made for payouts (or not). I’m not 100% sure what she means, but I’ve sent all my lab and histological reports to her, and she’s making an appeal.

Even if it doesn’t happen, I am just happy she made the effort to call me, touch base, make the effort to repeal the rejection.

But she was the only one out of my three agents who were notified by Prudential that my claim was rejected, to do this.

So, not to sound sexist, but if you are a woman reading this, I would suggest that you buy your life/health policies from another woman. Only a woman can truly comprehend the severity of losing a breast. Not that male agents cannot be sympathetic, but they would not feel for it the way they would if their client had testicular cancer.

I’m grateful for all the knowledge that has come flooding into this blog. I hope whoever reads it will gain something from it, pass it on, link this to a friend’s FB/Twitter/email, and make a difference.

While you are in good health, make sure your insurance coverage is really sufficient. It’s worth the while to do your homework, and I hope this blog will be effective “required reading”.

Sh*t, There’s A Hole In My Coverage. Make That A Manhole.

Today is probably a really bad day to be blogging because I’ve got me a major case of the blues. So forgive me if this sounds super-ranty, because I am super-pissed.

This sort of fury often brought on by finance-related matters. Yesterday I received a letter from Prudential, with whom I spend nearly $1,000 every month, telling me that I don’t have cancer.

Yep, you read it right. Apparently, according to the experts at Prudential, I lost a breast and went through a 12 hour surgery for… not cancer!

Blows your mind, huh? I’m still trying to find pieces of my brain under the couch after this staggering news.

Truth is, three of my many Prudential policies cover me for critical illness. However, when I signed with my agents, I never imagined that cancer at Stage 0 would be considered by my insurance company that I “do not have cancer”. In fact, there is every chance a woman buying a life plan with critical illness coverage has NO IDEA there is a stage called DCIS, and that her insurance company does not consider it cancer.

So my “imaginary cancer” won’t allow me to claim any of the $200,000 (or more) that my critical illness plans entitle me to.

Please, if you are a woman reading this, go and see your insurance agent and tell him/her/it that you want coverage for EARLY STAGE CANCERS. Make sure your policy document states that you will get 25% or however much for ductal carcinomas-in-situ or Stage 0 breast cancer. To my understanding these are the 2 policies that offer them now:

1. Great Eastern’s PinkLife will pay out 25% of your sum assured for carcinomas-in-situ. Not great an exchange for a breast but at least it’s not nothing. If I had bought that instead I would have $50,000 to allow me to take a break from work for some months, while still being able to pay my monthly bills and kids’ tuition fees and groceries…

2. AIA’s Complete Critical Illness Cover pays out 25% on early critical illnesses (I am assuming DCIS breast cancer is one of these).

Please please please, I beg you, don’t get royally scr*wed like me. Make sure your critical illness plan actually covers you, and you are not just happily giving your money away to insurance companies for their CEOs to buy 10 luxury holiday homes across the world.

Do not be a sucker like me. Please.

Call your insurance agent or financial planner today and make sure, by hook or by crook, you are covered by some rider, anything, for early stage cancers.

I’ve been researching cases of insurance companies who don’t pay out for DCIS breast cancers. Looks like it’s a worldwide disease. The insurance companies are the disease, I mean.

I lost a breast to this threat.
My histological report finds the cancer cells ARE malignant and aggressive, and most certainly were life-threatening — or I wouldn’t have needed the mastectomy.
I just happened to discover it before it became an uncontrollable growth.

Tell me how this is not cancer.

In my Googling I found this BBC clip. It makes me so, so sad that all around the world, women like me are shortchanged by insurance policies that they pay through the nose for.

I have paid close to $32,000 for one policy and over $25,000 for the other.

This clause in Critical Illness contracts NEEDS TO CHANGE. DCIS is cancer (and in my case, malignant) and it should be awarded accordingly and automatically. Sadly, Prudential covered its backside in its small print, which I had no understanding of. It makes me sad that they expect me to have Stage 1, or 2, or 3 or terminal cancer and chemo and radiation before I qualify to make a claim. Losing a breast is forever. Surely that must count for something.

For women in their 20s or 30s reading this — if you have had a grandmother, mother, sister, aunt, female cousin contract breast cancer, make sure you get yourself proper coverage (see box above).

A close friend who is a decorated journalist was horrified to hear it was likely I could not make a claim on my critical illness plans. “They should change that,” he said (after uttering “Wah lau eh, sh*t!”). “I can write a story on that.”

He should. I think I will be calling him soon. Also I am relooking at my Prudential policies now — maybe it’s not worthwhile carrying on. I should get my money back. Pity the surrender value is so pathetic. Bet that CEO already bought his 11th luxury holiday home.

Never mind, lessons learned. READ THE SMALL PRINT, AND FIND OUT WHAT THE EXCLUSIONS MEAN.

So, I guess I have no choice but to haul my sorry ass back to work.