Luke's story highlights the benefit of having children's critical illness cover as part of a parental policy, whilst Louis's story focuses on the benefit of a major earner in the household having critical illness cover.

Luke's story

Critical illness cover for children

Having a child diagnosed with a life-threatening illness is every parent’s worst nightmare. Here, we explain what happened to one family after their baby boy was diagnosed with a brain tumour, and how having financial protection enabled them to take time off work when his condition worsened.

The nightmare of a cancer diagnosis

It should have been one of the happiest times of their lives, but just six months after James and Virag’s son Luke was born, doctors told the couple their baby had grade 3 anaplastic ependymoma, a rare type of malignant brain tumour.

The couple had taken him to their doctor a few times after they noticed that he had started holding his head on one side, and scratching dry skin on his head. James said: “Looking back, these were symptoms, but at the time they were easily dismissed. Our world went from normal to disastrous very quickly.”

Once his brain tumour had been diagnosed, Luke needed emergency neurosurgery three times, followed by planned neurosurgery. He was in hospital for four months and had chemotherapy treatment for between one and four days every fortnight for the following year. Tragically, the treatment proved ineffective, and the tumour recurred. Luke was given months to live.

Financial help when they needed it most

At this point, James, who worked in logistics, decided to stop working. The couple’s joint critical illness policy, which they had only taken out a year and a half prior to Luke’s cancer diagnosis, covered their child as well as them. Many critical illness policies do this as standard until your children reach the age of 21, although some may charge an additional fee, so always read the small print if you want a policy which offers protection for the whole family.

James had originally arranged the policy to ensure that they could cover costs if one of them was unable to work due to illness. However, the cover provided them with invaluable financial support whilst they cared for their son.

Luke went on to have targeted radiotherapy, which showed positive results. However, the tumour recurred, and a further 30 radiotherapy treatments failed to have any impact. He needed surgery again, and had to have another operation last summer.

The critical illness insurance policy was the safety net the family needed at a terrible time. Not only did it allow James to give up work and focus on his son’s treatment, but it meant the couple could buy a bigger car for all the equipment and supplies Luke needed both in hospital and at the hospice.

Even though they had a relatively small amount of cover, and only paid low monthly premiums, James said the funds received from the policy made a “big difference” to the family.

He found the claims process simple, with the main wait being for the consultant to complete the relevant forms. The lump sum was paid with interest once these forms were submitted.

An ongoing battle

It wasn’t just the cancer itself which had a huge impact on Luke. As it affected his brain, there were lots of other physical effects too. He suffered a stroke which caused right-sided weakness and facial palsy, he was unable to walk, and his sight and hearing were affected too. Luke was on ventilation for four weeks, and suffered from Bulbar Palsy, a pathological condition in which the nerve cells responsible for movement are impaired.

Sadly for the family, Luke had a further MRI scan which revealed four new tumours, and further treatment was no longer an option. They focused on enjoying the time Luke had left, organising days out that they could all enjoy, without worrying about the cost.

“The impact of critical illness – whether adult or child – varies, and can be wide ranging and long lasting,” said James.

Why protection matters

Serious illness is something we all hope will never affect our children, but the fact is that thousands of parents every year have to come to terms with a devastating diagnosis.

Although no amount of money can ever alleviate the emotional distress of seeing your child going through often invasive and painful treatment, it can at least give you one less worry if you need to stop work to care for them, or if you need to make adaptations to your home.

In memory of Luke Wheeler–Mezei.

Louis's story

What does a critical illness policy actually do?

This is the story of a young man, his family and their journey through a life threatening cancer diagnosis. And how the foresight to protect themselves against the unexpected helped them face this huge life challenge together.

Life can change suddenly when we least expect it

Louis, 29, was working full time in financial services. He and his wife had just bought a new home and had a 2 year old daughter – everything felt really good. Just over a year later, without warning, life took on a sudden change. Louis started to feel quite unwell, his weight dropped, he didn’t feel like eating and was suffering from night sweats.

Initially he thought it was just a virus that would run its course. However, one night he was out with his wife and felt really unwell; it was clear that his illness was much more significant. Louis made an appointment to see his doctor and was immediately referred to the hospital for urgent tests.

The initial diagnosis was lymphoma, but after several appointments Louis finally had it confirmed as thyroid cancer. To compound this, Louis was also diagnosed with an immune deficiency disease which had gone unnoticed previously. This had lead to the complication around his initial diagnosis but also impacted his treatment for thyroid cancer.

This was an extremely unsettling time for Louis and his family, but fortuitously he had a critical illness insurance policy which turned out to provided financial support and other benefits that were to help him through his treatment.

An invaluable second opinion about best treatment

Following diagnosis, surgery was quickly scheduled, but Louis wanted to be certain that this was the best route forward for him. That expert second opinion was available from the ’Best Doctors’ service available through his critical illness insurance policy.

Best Doctors was one of the main reasons Louis took out his selected policy as the service is available from day one; and due to the urgency of the situation, time wasn’t on his side.

Louis worked closely with one of the Best Doctor’s nurses who were determined to provide the second medical opinion he needed before his surgery. Fortunately they confirmed everything was fine, giving him valuable peace of mind.

Unfortunately there were complications with the surgery and Louis spent weeks rather than days in hospital. With his wife at home looking after his daughter and pregnant with their second child Louis was desperate to get home and support his family. He turned to Best Doctors again, who came back with a suggested treatment just as a specialist at the hospital proposed the same course of action. He said himself that if he had accessed the service sooner, we would have been home weeks before as the proposed treatment began to have immediate results.

The final stage of the treatment was radiotherapy to ensure there were no residual traces of the tumour.

Financial support at a difficult time

The critical illness insurance policy Louis had in place enabled him to claim a cash lump sum, taking away any financial worries he and his wife may have faced. The claims process itself was very easy. Louis simply called the life company and spoke to one of the claims team who took his details and sent him the form to initiate his claim.

The life company paid out his claim a month before the birth of his second child. He and his wife used the cash lump sum to reduce monthly payments on their mortgage, modify and update their home, clear some monthly outgoings and put some cash away for a rainy day. As Louis said ‘I am relieved I had put protection in place. It made a difficult time more bearable and has provided financial stability for us for the future’.

A brighter future

Louis is now back at work, cancer free and in a position to regulate his other medical condition. He is eating well and full of energy and looking forward to a brighter future with his family.

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