The day that I had £250,000 sat in my kitchen drawers…

… and before ANYONE starts, this is not a brag post!

As regular readers are likely aware, I was diagnosed with brain cancer (a Grade 4, Chang Stage 0, Medullablastoma) at the start of the year, what I really wanted to speak about, given the relative ‘newness’ of it, is critical illness insurance.

No, I’m not a sales man, but fortunately for me, work ‘force’ us to opt in to this along with life insurance, and so, in for a penny, in for a pound, I paid the premium to bump up payout from £100k to £250k – costing only £8 total a month – though I do appreciate not everyone has ‘a spare couple-of-quid’. With the Nation’s health being as it is, the unfortunate truth of it is that you, or someone you know, will likely end up with a ‘critical illness’. It’s really not a ‘wait and see’ thing in my opinion.

That decision has absolutely turned my life around and made the last few months post-diagnosis so much easier, especially when it has taken the Government nearly 6 months to arrange a PIP Assessment for me (it came through today – I applied in June 2014) – were I not lucky with having such generous employers, I would have hated to be flung to the benefits people in the condition that I was in post-surgery/radiotherapy.

I have to say, it wasn’t something Max and I particularly dwelled on, we dutifully filled out the forms, and I got the surprise of my life when, out of the blue, the postman knocked with a special delivery letter for me. Now, Max and I had been wondering what scale they would use to assess me and were only expecting a small percentage – I swear I nearly fainted when I opened the envelope and, plain and unceremonious as you like, there was a cheque with my name on for the full £250,000.

It had been a running joke that we’d get the insurance before a more firm idea of my condition became apparent, and we’d always joked that anything graded above £150,000 was probably ‘oh fuck’/’fancy funeral’ money, ha! Fortunately as many of you will be aware, I’m taking everything day by day at the moment with ‘no residual disease’.

So, I’m on the phone to Max, I tell him and he goes silent – I’ve never encountered him doing that before – we were both so shocked. I swear, that day, had the cancer not bumped me off, the shock would have got me. I hid the cheque in the kitchen drawer, as if ninjas were going to break in at any moment!!!

A few days later, after establishing that I could pay that sum of money in to my current account (I did toy with a ‘black’ account), I got myself all nicely suited and booted for the occasion of paying the cheque in. I decided to go to a branch near my work as it’s like the ‘business area’, and Max accompanied. When I walked in to the bank I was practically shaking. We waited at the welcome podium and a staff member rocked up, and when we said “Hi, we have a large value cheque to cash“, instead of getting us to sit with the branch manager in their office, as we expected, we unceremoniously got told to join the normal counter line. Once we handed the cheque to the cashier, she didn’t even bat an eyelid. Either good training, or professional insensitivity to money (I’m in accounting, I move millions from around the World each day, and it’s all just numbers to me). We were in and out in two minutes. I’m not gonna lie, it was a bit deflating!!

Contrast this to the lady in the same branch a few weeks later when I went in to arrange a CHAPS payment, she went mental! Whooping and asking all kinds of questions at the public counter (and not just the anti-fraud ones) “Wow, that’s a lot of money, do you have a good job?”, Me, “Insurance settlement“, She, “Jesus, what got broken?” Me, deadpan, “I did, Brain Cancer”; for a second she froze, shocked, and then with a big grin boomed “well at least you’re alright now and youse is all richy rich”. haha!

At this moment in time, I appear to have ‘won’ – I got the money and the ‘no current sign of disease’ – could change in a few years, may be gone forever, could get hit by a bus tomorrow. I’ve made peace with that a long time ago.

Pretty much spent all the money in two months (sounds horrific, and crassly reckless, doesn’t it?), however as an unmarried gay chap, it has always been important to me to make sure that everyone around me has security when I snuff it. Max and I are now mortgage free and joint owners; able to create our ‘dream house’ (with a lot of investment potential on the back of us doing it up); I’ve gotten out of the city at last, and it prompted me to make a proper and legal will. I’ve also given some back to charity, friends and relatives who I wanted to help out. The house is hopefully ‘future-proof’ in case I do relapse, and I managed to get a few bucket list items done in New York, just being sensible as we don’t know where the ride will take us, and how up to travel I may be in years to come – best to live in the now, and all that! (‘no day but today’). In terms of the charity, it was very important to me that money borne from Cancer goes back in to Cancer – bit of a no brainer really (excuse the pun!) as it benefits me and all the other people out there living with, or yet to encounter, this horrible illness.

As I say, I’m not sharing this just to brag – I haven’t told anyone (even my own family), how much the settlement was for. It’s just another ‘funny’ twist in my Cancer story that I wanted to record. As I say, I’m the lucky one, I’m the guy that got the critical illness payout and lived! (How Harry Potter of me!) Can’t guarantee it’ll always work out like that for you if you look in to a critical illness policy, but I know I’d always feel a lot more secure knowing there was a safety net should the World come crashing down (and believe me, you’re not going to want to have to get up and go to the benefits office and argue your case if you’re THAT ill). I’ve kept my policy, but would rather not ever need to claim on it again!

About Gari

Northern lad; living out in the Peak District and rediscovering life after having had a brain tumour.

6 Responses

  1. Hi Gari

    I’ve been meaning to reply to this for a while.
    I work in the life industry so this is something I see on a daily basis and it’s a reminder of just how important CI insurance is. I’m not in the business of selling it but one of the things that often comes up is cancellations.

    People think it’s weird that we ask so many questions about why they’re cancelling – “Why can’t you afford it?” but, when you sometimes get answers like “My wife is out of work because she has breast cancer” or “My husband had a heart attack” and these people are about to throw away a £200K+ claim because they didn’t know they could ask for it, I think such questions are definitely justified.

    I’ve also seen first-hand in my own family what happens when people decide not to pay for life cover anymore and something happens.

    I don’t think you’re bragging with this post and, while you might want to refer to it as having “won”, I would say that you’ve gone through more than enough to deserve it.
    The fact you set up the policy in the first place, even though you had no mortgage to cover, and the way in which you used the proceeds further reinforces the fact that you’re an incredibly thoughtful and caring person.


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