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.

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.