“People tend to toy with the idea of insurance, putting it off because it’s another expense when you can probably rely on the public system to kick in when you have a problem” says Viv.
“From my experience, people on the public system end up waiting months for treatment."
“And, whilst insurance is an expense, it’s so important. Insurance reduced our emotional stress because it removed any financial stress. It provided us with a much-needed sense of relief and a whole lot more options.”
18 years ago, Viv married her partner Tony.
At the time, she was a single mother of four children. She had income protection, life insurance and home and contents insurance. Tony had business insurance through Tourelle Lifebrokers and convinced Viv to have her insurance needs reassessed by Andre and Karen Tourelle.
“Tourelle Lifebrokers look at your situation and work out what insurance you’ll need in the event of something going wrong” explains Viv. “They focus on ensuring that whatever does go wrong, the outcome will be the best one possible."
“They also review your needs annually because things evolve. For example, as our business grew, my Income Protection was replaced with Trauma Cover. And we added Partner’s Life Medical Cover about 10 years ago."
“These two simple changes made all the difference to my current situation.”
In December 2017, Viv felt a lump in her breast.
She had a biopsy on December 15 and was told she had breast cancer on December 20. Thanks to Tourelle, her Medical Cover had already kicked in and Viv saw a surgeon that same day.
On January 9, they removed two lymph nodes. Both were cancerous.
By this time Viv’s Trauma Cover claim was accepted and she was paid out $60K. This meant the Van Dam’s were financially okay and there was no need for Viv to return to work until she was ready.
Viv learned her cancer was very aggressive. She was also advised that her case was middle of the line - she could choose between radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatment.
There was also the option of more surgery, which she agreed to immediately knowing that cost was covered.
Deciding between chemotherapy and radiotherapy was difficult.
In Viv’s mind, chemotherapy wasn’t ideal, but she wanted to give herself the best shot at beating the cancer.
Her oncologist suggested she have a MammaPrint test, where samples are sent to America and analysed to determine whether the existing cancer can metastasize (spread).
It also helps oncologists to make treatment decisions based on the risk of cancer recurring within 10 years of diagnosis. The test costs around NZD8,000.
Viv notes that because Partner’s Life covered all her medical expenses (even waiving any excess), she and Tony decided to go ahead with the MammaPrint test. It was a nice surprise when that was paid for too – Partner’s Life being the only NZ insurance company to cover that test.
Results from the MammaPrint indicated that Viv’s best course of treatment was to have both radiotherapy and chemotherapy, which she did.
From Viv’s perspective, insurance made all the difference to her situation.
“I believe that without the Trauma Cover, the decisions I made would have been a lot different because I would have been focused on getting back to work versus giving myself the best chance to recover.
“And without Medical Cover, my surgery would have been delayed. Even in the short period I waited (20 days), I couldn’t lie on my side or even hang the washing.
“The MammaPrint test undoubtedly has given me the best chance of survival. I always thought I would never undergo chemo.”
“And the second surgery, although the results were clear, gave me reassurance. Again, I probably wouldn’t have had it if I needed to go back to work.”
Eight months later, Viv is still being paid out by Partner’s Life for her recovery expenses, like physiotherapy and medicine, as well as travel.
Her advice is to get the right insurance and work with brokers that you trust.
“I’m a big fan of Tourelle Life Brokers because Andre and Karen take a personal interest in every one of their clients. When someone has a problem, they drop everything to sort it.”
“They take over when you need someone to take over for you and it’s such a relief. I don’t even worry about claims, I simply hand the receipts over and Tourelle take care of everything.”