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I have always felt that if I were truly sick, the world would somehow pause and wait for me to get better.

Article by Akwasi Duodu

When my client Eddie’s number came up on my phone, I expected him to be enquiring about topping up his pension and ISA. Eddie was a self-employed high-end carpenter, making stylish, unusual, high-quality dining tables, desks and chairs for boutique furniture shops in London, Paris, Milan and New York. He was doing well, and would randomly call me with lump sums to pay into his pension. Although in the middle of a pandemic when he called, I had no reason not to believe that business was still good.

To my surprise, Eddie wanted to cash in and close his ISA and put his pension contributions on hold.  Not so good, then. When I asked whether this was pandemic related, Eddie said no. It was related to the fact that he’d been undergoing chemo for bowel cancer, the effect of which had rendered him unable to work throughout 2020; was almost out of savings and wanted to ensure that he didn’t fall behind on his mortgage repayments, hence cashing in his ISA and stopping his pension contributions. This would give him six months grace he reckoned. After that, who knew?

Isn’t this a cruel world?

My world shifted when I heard of Eddie’s misfortune. I literally had to hold onto my desk for fear of falling over. How could this be? A successful, talented 36-year-old with a brilliant future. How could his world be falling apart due to cancer? I was speechless as I listened to him relay the horrible side effects of chemo – hair loss, nausea and tearful fatigue. And this was in addition to the debilitating stomach cramps from the bowel cancer.

I have always thought very sick people should be exempt from the savage everyday financial responsibilities such as mortgage and bills. I have always felt that if I were truly sick, the world would somehow pause and wait for me to get better. Sadly, the world doesn’t work that way.

Is there any hope?

As I was listening, a thought occurred to me. 6 years ago, I arranged a mortgage for Eddie and had recommended income protection and critical illness cover. I couldn’t remember whether he’d taken up my recommendation. Indeed, I remember him objecting – he was single and had no dependants and was sceptical about the need for insurance.  As we spoke, with a pounding heart, I logged into his file. Please, please, if there is a God! And there it was. His application forms and acceptance letters, for both policies! I very nearly wept with joy!

Unable to get a word, in, I continued to listen to Eddie’s tale of utter woe. When he paused, I managed to say; “I might have some good news for your Eddie. I sold you income protection and critical illness cover when I arranged your mortgage a few years back. If you’re still paying the premiums, you may be due some money.”

“Is that the policy for £120 per month?” he asked, “I was going to ask you what it was for and was hoping to cancel it!”

Love found in a hopeless place?

Eddie went onto claim successfully on both policies. His mortgage was paid off completely by the critical illness policy and he has a surplus which will allow him to take a couple of years off to convalesce after his chemo if he wishes. The income protection will pay him a monthly tax-free-income, only slightly less than he was earning. This would continue until he was able to return to work – whenever that may be.  “You are my hero,” he said. “I could kiss you!”

Easy, tiger! That would be crossing the boundaries of my job! Secretly though, I felt like a bit like a hero. Eddie’s future was bright due to what I had convinced him to buy. He now had choices. Most importantly, he now had a smile on his face and a bright outlook. And I was a part of that. It felt good.

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