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SURVIVOR AMBASSADOR TESTIMONY

I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Lymphoma at the age of 36. I’ve chosen to live my life in a positive manner throughout everything I have achieved. Being a sportsman, I was always the picture of optimum health. I was super fit, never drank or smoked and never dreamed I was or would fall ill.

I liken my cancer to my journey as a rugby player with one glaring difference; this is a battle to live. There’s the shock of being diagnosed, similar to when they call your name out as a member of the Springbok team. Numbness descends on you and your life is focused on the words that have just been spoken. Once that initial shock wears off, you are bombarded with an entirely new experience that leaves you feeling overwhelmed. Not much different to when you are first given the new plays and are learning to be part of a new team, there is so much information to digest. Then comes the gruelling treatment, I can only tell you it’s like no other training day I’ve ever experienced. It’s long, hard and body-racking with no breaks, but you carry on because game day is around the corner and that’s all you focus on. Then, after the numerous times you think I’m never going to survive this training schedule called treatment, game day arrives. Will we walk off the field victorious? In my case, I did.

In the end I think it was a combination of positivity, luck, early detection, the love and support of my family and friends as well as excellent medical professionals that got me through my cancer journey. But at what cost?

I walked off the field the day the doctor gave me the all clear victorious, a victory cup that surpasses all I had ever lifted. It’s a high I will never forget. Not even holding up a World Cup Trophy could compare but that didn’t mean my journey was over.

I’m part of another team now, the survivor’s team. For the members of this team this journey never ends. Besides the constant possibility that one day my victory cup may be taken away from me, although the longer I hold onto it the better my chances are that it won’t, I have had to face the effect my disease has had on me trying to purchase long term health insurance.

When I took out all my medical and long-term insurance cover I never contemplated that the small print relating to cancer would ever affect me.

As health consumers we make decisions on medical gap cover and life insurance cover without knowing what the actual cover entails and how a cancer diagnosis will affect these types of insurance. Only once you are faced with claiming from your benefits or seeking new cover does fine print come into play. Things like exclusions, new therapies, risk analysis, future insurance cover or ineligibility to reinsure yourself, all pose huge barriers for survivors.

I quickly learnt that not all insurance companies insure cancer survivors and those who do offer life insurance policies for cancer survivors usually requiring survivors to pay a higher premium. Even, if like me, you have been clear of cancer for more than five years and have a check-up twice a year. I became a cancer survivor in an insurance black hole.

I have two wishes for the members of my new team. The first, that their victory over this disease stays with them always. The second, that policy makers provide insurance products that cater to cancer survivors and address issues that may affect cancer patients with existing insurance products.

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