Emma Thomson – A Breast Cancer Journey

Hi everyone, this week I am chatting to Emma Thomson, Product Strategist at British Friendly.

Last year Emma was diagnosed with breast cancer and she is joining me on the podcast to talk about her experience of having cancer, her treatment and her tips on reviewing your protection insurances.

Emma is chatting about the extra costs of cancer too, the things that people often don’t talk about e.g. post-surgery bras. She also tells us how she now has 3 tattoos thanks to her treatment, something that she never expected and I think that she sounds quite relieved that they are only tiny dots.

With no family history of cancer and a negative result on the BRCA gene, Emma is an example of how cancer can happen to anybody. Working in protection insurance all of her life, she had the foresight to get private medical insurance, critical illness cover and income protection in place, all of which were able to support her during her diagnosis and recovery.

The 3 key takeaways:

  1. How you can use lemons to help spot the symptoms of cancer.
  2. The importance of reviewing your protection insurance, especially if you are changing jobs and your employee benefits change.
  3. A case study about getting life insurance for a client that had breast cancer, whilst stricter underwriting decisions have been in place due to coronavirus.

I might be back sooner than usual with another Inbetweenysode. Watch this space!!

In two weeks I will be chatting with Richard Lemmon, my Dad, about his experiences living with Parkinson’s disease.

Kathryn:       Hi everyone, today I have Emma Thomson with me from British Friendly – hi Emma.

Emma:        Hi Kathryn, how are you?

Kathryn:       I’m good thank you, I’m just going to like sort of get myself a cup of tea, a quick drink of that and it’s all sorted so I don’t do that.  How are you?

Emma:        I am good, the sun is shining here in lovely Lincoln which is great after not such great weather recently so that’s always a bonus especially on a Monday.

Kathryn:       Absolutely, absolutely especially with taking the dog out for walks as well and that’s just –

Emma:        Yes.

Kathryn:       Perfect, isn’t it?  Well today everybody we’re going to be talking about Emma and her experience of being diagnosed with breast cancer, the things that she found useful on her road to recovery, the things that she didn’t find so useful and we’ll be talking about how her protection insurances were able to help her during this time.  So this is the Practical Protection podcast.  So Emma, obviously we just heard that the sun is shining, lovely for you.  How has it been for you this weekend?  What have you been up to?

Emma:        Well I’m actually having a kitchen extension done next month all being well, I know, we’re nearly in October aren’t we which is quite scary.

Kathryn:       Yeah.

Emma:        So I’ve had to do a lot of clearing out because it’s going into my garage and you know what garages are like.  I’ve had to do a lot of sorting so yes, but then I also got to see some friends as well so that was all good.

Kathryn:       Oh lovely, that sounds absolutely amazing.  I was going to say, I think – I’m sort of like picturing now sort of really nice mood lighting, one of those central bar type things that you can work at.  Are we doing all that kind of stuff or?

Emma:        Not quite on that scale, no.

Kathryn:       Oh okay.

Emma:        But it will definitely be an improvement ‘cos I’ve got a rather rickety sort of like lean-to awful utility room thing at the moment which needs demolishing so that’s going to go so it will be a huge improvement which will be great and, yes, my dog Molly will have a far nicer space for her to chill out in as well.  That’s where she is at the moment, stuck in the kitchen so she doesn’t start woofing at us.

Kathryn:       Brilliant, I was going to say that’s the main thing, make sure it is doggy friendly and that it’s absolutely her little kingdom.  Fantastic.  So we do have a truth or lie feature on the podcast and last time – so you get to guess this time as to who is telling the truth and who’s lying.  So last time we had Vicky Churcher on and she said that the last film that she watched was Spartacus and I said mine was Avengers.  So who do you think was telling the truth?

Emma:        I’m going to go – oh it’s a tough one, let’s go with Vicky.

Kathryn:       Vicky’s telling the truth?  Vicky was lying!

Emma:        Ugh.

Kathryn:       This is the first time that I’ve not been caught out, this is incredible.  I do think though, last time I said The Avengers which I think is completely different to actually what I’m meaning.  Yeah, I meant The Avengers with the, you know, the Groot – I am Groot thing.  So yeah, my – all my films now are kid-friendly and what we can watch with them.  But yes, so that was good.  For everybody who was listening, I don’t know what Vicky’s last film was, I’m sorry I can’t give that information to everybody.  Obviously Emma thank you so much for joining me.  I think it’s a good idea to get straight into things, you know, you’ve been very open about the fact that you were diagnosed with breast cancer and that obviously your treatment and your recovery and you’ve spoken really passionately at the recent think tanks with British Friendly online pipeline – so you were with myself and Steph Hydon about conversations that can be supportive when somebody’s had a cancer – and then sometimes things that can be said that people maybe say in probably the most sincere supportive manner but actually they maybe don’t come across quite right.  So can you just start off please by telling everybody in a sense how you found out that you had breast cancer?

Emma:        So, well yeah, it’s over a year now since kind of this all started so it was sort of March-time, I think it was where, as you do, you know, I’m just scrolling through social media and I saw an image on one of the posts from an organisation who promotes this image called Know Your Lemons and essentially for those of you who haven’t seen Know Your Lemons, and I would absolutely urge you to have a look to, you know, especially if you’re female but even if you’re, you know, a guy – guys do get breast cancer as well and also you might be able to share it with the female loved ones in your life as well.  So Know Your Lemons literally has lemons in a large egg box and the lemons are there to illustrate the different changes that a woman or a man might experience in their breasts.  And I just saw this image and being open, one of them was to do with inverted or sunken nipples and I thought, “Okay, that’s kind of me.”  So I went along to the GP and I got referred and went along to my local hospital and had all the tests and, you know, I wasn’t really sure what to expect.  I thought I would just rock up, you know, have a couple of tests, go home and then be told by my GP, you know, as and when afterwards and I don’t have any history of breast cancer in my family.  I don’t really have any history of cancer at all in my family so I wasn’t really expecting the bad news that I got.

But as it turned out on the day, I had many tests in the hospital and I kept going back into the waiting room and then having another one and then as soon as they then called me from the waiting room that last time and then took me into a room with sofas and cushions, I thought, “Right, I kind of know what’s coming here.”  And yes, and whilst they couldn’t give me a complete diagnosis at that point ‘cos I’d literally walked in there that morning, they did sit down and they just said, you know, “We’re sorry to have to tell you but we are pretty, pretty sure that you’ve got breast cancer.”  So that was that and because I wasn’t really sure what to expect, I had gone by myself and so receiving that news by myself was obviously, you know, an extra shock and, you know, I didn’t really tell anybody because as I said, I wasn’t really expecting anything and also my Dad’s health had been really awful so I didn’t want to create extra worry for my parents so I just kind of kept it – nobody even knew I was going to the doctor for a check-up.  So it was, yeah – it was quite a difficult day.  That’s probably an understatement but yeah, it was a difficult time, that’s for sure.

Kathryn:       I was going to say, I mean that’s really intense.  In many ways, it’s so good isn’t it that you went in in the morning and by the end of the day you had that knowledge.  I mean, I know it’s not good in a sense, obviously I’m not saying it’s good –

Emma:        Yeah.

Kathryn:       Being told you have breast cancer and it’s, you know, it’s certainly not but the fact that you were able to find that out in some ways, so, so quickly is really, really incredible.  I know you’ve mentioned the Know Your Lemons image and I remember you saying that when you were speaking about it afterwards and I went and I found it and I thought it was so powerful and if anybody who sort of like isn’t sure where to find it or anything, I’ll put a little link into the website for it and I also did a little video about it, about, you know, Stop, Look, Listen kind of thing where I’m jiggling my boobs on the screen and stuff like that, as you do.  But it is such a powerful thing to just look at – to literally look at lemons and think actually –

Emma:        It is such a simple image, you know, whoever created that was a genius really because it just shows so easily, you know, and I’ve seen other sort of material where, you know, it’s drawn women with their boobs and obviously, you know, what you should be looking out for but the lemon one was so much easier.

Kathryn:       Well I was going to say, it’s so easy and also I think it’s such a vivid picture as well, you know, obviously when you’re scrolling through social media, the main thing, you know, if something’s brightly coloured and a bit different, it really stands out and that’s like – I think these bright yellow lemons, you know, with a pink background – it really does catch your eye.

Emma:        Yeah.  Absolutely.  So, you know, a lot of people knock social media for so many reasons and in a lot of ways, you know, rightly so, it’s not always good but certainly for me, I don’t know, you know, how much longer it would have been before I’d have gone to get checked out because, you know, you normally just think of lumps and bumps when it comes to cancer, particularly breast cancer, and at the time, I’m not quite so well endowed at the moment but at the time, you know, I did have big boobs, you know, being honest, I did and unfortunately for a lot of women who have got big boobs, it is far more difficult for them to actually find lumps just because obviously there’s more there.

Kathryn:       Of course.

Emma:        So, you know, that illustration, you know, was really, really helpful to me.

Kathryn:       Of course, well obviously thank you and if – I suppose if you feel okay to, do you mind sort of chatting us through the treatment and what it felt like to go through that process?  Because I know again you’ve spoken about your treatment but I think there’s sometimes so many different ways that it’s kind of treated.  It would be really good to sort of like have a bit of a breakdown as to what it was like.

Emma:        Well the first thing I’d actually like to say is in that room with the sofas and the cushions, one of the things that stood out to me, you know, I had a breast care nurse who was, you know, well a doctor gave me that diagnosis and a breast care nurse stayed to answer queries and talk about what the next steps were but one thing as a protection professional that really stood out for me was she actually asked if I’m worried about money and she asked what sick pay I had and, you know, then I obviously got talking to her on that and to some extent it kind of helped kind of taking me out of the whole personal side of things and actually, you know, get my professional hat on and, you know, that was really interesting for me that she – that was one of the first questions she asked which just illustrates that there would have been a lot of people sitting in that room before me who would have been not just worried about their health but really worried about their income and their financial vulnerability as well going forward, you know, and luckily, you know, I didn’t have to worry about that.

Kathryn:       Yeah.

Emma:        Which, you know, this is why we do what we do and this is what we say to our clients, you know, over and over again, you know, protection is there so you can just worry about your health and you don’t have to worry about money particularly, obviously on the IP and critical illness side.  So, you know, for me that was just really interesting but I mean after that day, I went back the following week which was when they would have gone through, you know, all the tests to know exactly what it was that they were facing and I was facing.  I met my breast care surgeon for the first time who was amazing and I’m really lucky actually that before that meeting, two people – one lady was a friend of my mum who had actually had him as her surgeon and another friend of mine, his mum had had cancer and she’d also had him as their surgeon so even before meeting him, you know, I had reassurance that he was a good guy and he was.  He has been amazing and in that meeting, you know, he talked through what was going to happen.  I was luckily in that I didn’t need to have a full mastectomy, I just needed a lumpectomy but even at that point though it’s always, “This is what we think but we can’t guarantee it because until we’re kind of there, we don’t really know 100%,” and as it turned out, they thought initially that my cancer was a grade two invasive cancer but it wasn’t.  As it turned out after the surgery, it got confirmed that it was actually grade three.

Kathryn:       Okay.

Emma:        So I had that and then in that meeting, you know, I am lucky that I had private medical insurance so I was able to say, “Well actually I’ve got this cover,” and so even in that first meeting with him, he was getting his diary out and saying, “Well actually, if you do have that cover, you know, I can pretty much get you in,” and it was two and a half weeks later.

Kathryn:       Wow.

Emma:        So within a month of me pretty much – I would say probably a month from me going to see my GP to actually being on the operating table, you know, which a lot of people, you know, aren’t lucky enough to have and obviously when it comes to cancer, the faster the better really.  So that’s kind of what happened so I had my surgery on 17th May, yeah so actually it must have been – sorry I’m – it’s very difficult trying to remember so it must have been April when I went to the see the GP not the March.

Kathryn:       Yeah.

Emma:        So it was 17th May when I had my surgery and fortunately it was just a lumpectomy that he needed but then it’s various stages in the process ‘cos you kind of get over that hurdle and then you’ve got to then wait to – for them to actually have done, you know –

Kathryn:       The tests.

Emma:        Done the tech to see what you’re going to need so then the whole thing over my head was, “Am I going to need to have chemotherapy?”  I knew I was definitely going to have to have radiotherapy whatever happened but it was, “Am I going to need chemo?”  And then, you know, I then had the appointment where it was told that I didn’t need chemotherapy so again that was another relief.

Kathryn:       Yeah.

Emma:        So I then had, do you know, I think it was 23 – 23 radiotherapy sessions –

Kathryn:       Right.

Emma:        Which is quite a reasonable number from what I hear ‘cos some people go, “Ooh that’s quite a lot,” and to be quite honest I don’t know what the average is so I don’t know whether that’s really bad in terms of numbers or, you know, I’m sure there are a lot of people that have to have unfortunately a lot more radiotherapy than that but yeah, so every single day I had to go and have radiotherapy, really quite quick.  You’re in and out within, you know, sort of five minutes but –

Kathryn:       Are you able to sort of like explain what radiotherapy is ‘cos I know we hear stuff like this and, you know, I’m the same as you in a sense that touch wood, no one in my family has had cancer or well they have but it’s been skin cancer, it’s not been more something that’s inside and so they’ve not needed things like radiotherapy.  So with the radiotherapy itself, what kind of happens when you go to those appointments?

Emma:        Yeah so you kind of – so you walk into this room, there’s like a massive machine above you and because – so for me it was my left breast that was affected so the added complication with that is that, you know, they’re blasting, you know, the area affected and, you know, but because my heart is also there, they have to be really careful.  So I was really lucky.  Only a few months before that, so Lincoln County hospital is where I went to and only a few months before they’d started pioneering this particular technique to try and essentially move the heart away from the affected area when they’re blasting and with that essentially what I had to do was hold my breath in.  So you have to lie down, they’re like, you know, fiddling about with you to get it in the right place.  I also, you know, I’ve never had a tattoo in my life but unfortunately I now do have three tattoos because I’ve got a dot here, a dot here and a dot here because that’s what they use to line me up.

Kathryn:       Okay.

Emma:        So I’m marked for life.

Kathryn:       You’re wild aren’t you Emma?  Three tattoos?

Emma:        I’m always the one, not just scars.  So, but yeah, so then they – I mean literally as it doesn’t take long, it wasn’t really painful, it became more sore as time went on but that’s what I was expecting.  But yeah, so, you know, they kind of had to tell me, “Right, hold your breath in,” so you’d hold your breath in and then they’d zap you and then that was that and then you’d walk out.  So if they could get it right in terms of lining you up, then – as I said, you were in and out in five minutes really and the team there were great.  I didn’t have that on my private medical insurance because actually to have that done privately, I would have had to travel to Nottingham every day which is over an hour away which obviously wasn’t ideal.

Kathryn:       Yeah.

Emma:        But it was absolutely fine to go with the NHS and as I said, I was lucky that the hospital had pioneered this new technique.  If I’d have gone somewhere else and I know through my cancer support group, other ladies who had the same treatment before me who didn’t have that –

Kathryn:       Right.

Emma:        So there was an added risk really of them damaging the heart which is, you know, it’s just something else you’ve got to think of.  It’s not just cancer you’ve got to consider, it’s all the other bits and bobs that go along with it.

Kathryn:       Absolutely, yeah.

Emma:        So that happened, so radiotherapy completed – one thing I would say is that through my insurance, I had access to second medical opinion services, so I contacted Best Doctors and they recommended that I have the BRCA test, the one that Angelina Jolie had.

Kathryn:       Yeah.

Emma:        Which really is to – just to see what your – effectively what your chances of having cancer again are.

Kathryn:       Yeah.

Emma:        And for me, you know, I do have a sister so it was important that I wanted to have that test and if that had come back positive, then my sister and my mum would have, you know, they would have had to have further tests themselves but actually, you know, that came back clear.  So again that was just sort of another hurdle to kind of get through, waiting for those results to come back and overall, you know, I guess I have been pretty, you know, given the circumstances I’ve been pretty lucky.  I didn’t have to have a full mastectomy, I didn’t have to have chemo, I did have a negative result on my BRCA test and, you know, I was able to benefit from all the protection policies that I had in place so I didn’t have to worry about money and my employer, British Friendly, were absolutely amazing as well through all of this.  So I didn’t have to worry about going back to work before I was ready, you know, in fact I did go back to work before they thought I was because they kept saying, you know, “Take your time, take your time,” but I wanted to get back so, you know, but those things, you know, are really, really important ‘cos you just want to focus on just trying to cope with this devastating news that you’ve just had.  So –

Kathryn:       Absolutely.  Something – there’s a couple of things there that you’ve said that sort of like really stood out for me.  I saw a newspaper article, I think it was yesterday and it really got to me at the time and it was about this mum who’s – I can’t remember if she’s – she was in the UK and basically before lockdown, she was meant to start some kind of I think clinical trial or something in regards to her cancer and obviously with Covid and everything and lockdown, everything stopped, she’s not been able to get it and she’s basically been – I think she’s had to try and raise £160,000 or something and she’s been going door to door with her neighbours just saying to them, “Please can you just give me something,” and apparently she went up to one person – I saw a little bit of it and – in a sense, I know it’s terrible but I had to stop reading because I was getting so upset and she’d sort of like started to go up to somebody’s drive and they’d been mean to her and sort of like basically saying, “What are you doing coming up my drive?” kind of thing.  And she just said that it just kind of broke her heart that someone had been like that, you know, she’d plucked up so much courage just to – ‘cos she felt obviously like, “I can’t go and ask people,” but then she’d plucked up this courage to ask and then it was really hard for her and it just, you know, what you were saying there about just having like the private medical insurance so you can just get into the system as quick as possible, even though, you know, like what you said, you’ve gone private to a certain level and then obviously you kind of then switch to the NHS it can just sometimes get you through things.  It’s just – it really, really stands out how important it is.

Emma:        It is and I do, you know, obviously given what’s going on at the moment, you know, I just keep thinking, if my diagnosis had been a year later, you know, I would have been – I would have had a different situation.  I know I would have had a completely different experience and I just feel really awful for all the women and men who are going through this now because yeah, as I said, you just want that treatment as quickly as possible.  I mean, one thing that, you know, I have said on a number of events is that I want everybody, you know, from one professional to all of you watching this, we are really good at saying to customers, you know, our clients, what they should do to make sure that they are protected and we’re not always the best at taking our own advice, you know, you think about the builder who hasn’t sorted out his own extension or the plumber that’s got a drippy tap.  You know, really good at looking after clients but don’t always follow our own advice.

So I was really lucky, again feeling lucky, you know, had cancer but you can still feel lucky about stuff, that I – that six months before my diagnosis I changed jobs and that prompted me to review my cover which I hadn’t done for far too long.  I should have done it and I didn’t but I did and I’m so grateful that I did because I had a larger critical illness pay-out than I would have done.  The one – I did have a policy that I’d taken out when I was 24 and that did pay out which was great but, you know, I did increase the cover and importantly I recognised and I spotted that, during my probation period in my new job, I wouldn’t have had the extra benefits so I took on my PMI myself so I transferred it from a group scheme into a personal scheme with the plan of moving it back into a group scheme when I qualified and it was in that period that pretty much I got diagnosed so I wouldn’t have had that cover if I hadn’t have changed it.  And also income protection as well, I wouldn’t have had group IP when I changed jobs.

As it turns out, I’d passed my probation earlier so I did qualify for it but I now have personal IP which I obviously will struggle to get for many years to come.  So even though I’m kind of doubled up on cover now and a lot of people would say, “Well why don’t you just cancel that because it’s wasted money every month?”  For me, I know that, if I should change jobs again or if the scheme changes, you know, these are things that people should be thinking about, you know, we’re not really in jobs for life any more.  I was I my last job for 18 years, I’m not planning on going anywhere at British Friendly but, you know, things do happen but at least I know that I’ve got that added security of my own personal cover because my circumstances have changed.

So please, if you haven’t reviewed your own cover or your partner’s cover, your loved ones, whoever, then please do.  You know, for years I tried to get family and friends to buy insurance and unfortunately it took me getting cancer for some of them to actually go, “Oh my goodness Emma, yeah, you know, you’ve been banging on at me for years, maybe I do need some of that cover now.”  And they have now taken out policies so, you know, don’t give up on your family and friends.  Just keep nudging them ‘cos it is important.

Kathryn:       That is, you know, some really, really good points there because as you say, you know, I think sometimes, you know, you kind of – once you’re doing something all day every day yourself, when you get home, the last thing you necessarily want to do is sort out your own cover and do things like that but so, so important and I don’t think a lot of people would have thought about that, you know, obviously because you’re in this and obviously you’re really on top of these types of things in our industry, you’ve known, like, “Hang on a minute, that probation period – could I – could that maybe change things?”  And I don’t think a lot of people would necessarily think that and I certainly think people who aren’t in our industry, I think the majority of people wouldn’t think that.  The amount of people I speak to and I’m chatting away to them and I’m saying, “Oh, do you have through work do you have this and do you have that?” and it does seem – I think I’m probably – I think there’s probably more people are starting to be aware of that now but it’s still a lot of people just do not know if their cover for things – or they’ll go, “Oh I am covered for something but I don’t know what.” And that’s often the answer we get is they’ll just go, “I do get a little bit of sick pay but I’m not sure what it is,” and you have to sort of like say to them, “Okay right well it’s really, really important that, you know, that we find out exactly what that is before we kind of really get to a proper recommendation stage because it’s, you know, it can just change the way that we approach things completely.”

And it’s – I think a big thing of it as well is just that the fact that – and it’s not being critical of employers or stuff like that but I think, you know, with employers we’ve got that much things to do – obviously I’m an employer myself – so many different things to do and sometimes making sure that you have these things sort of like in a folder, really easy for people to access and that you send them reminders of it all the time.  It’s – it can be quite I think difficult and for some companies it can sort of like be a bit difficult and I think as well, sometimes I’ve had it before where I’ve said to people, “Oh you need to go – it’s probably your HR team, you need to go speak to one of the HR and they’ll find it out for you,” and then they’ll come back to me and go, “The HR team haven’t got a clue what we’re on about.”  I’m like, “But they’re the company – they’re really the department that really needs to know this kind of thing.”

Emma:        I know.  I mean obviously things have changed for new people starting, you know, there is an onus for new people starting for employers to tell them but there’s no onus for them to actually tell all the existing staff members that they’ve got already which I think is where that legislation has kind of missed a trick but I think – the other thing is that a lot of people just go, “Well it’s only like three months sick –”  I mean, my probation was six months but it was kind of – well it didn’t turn out to be six months but that was what I was kind of facing, no cover for six months and you just think, “Well what’s really going to happen in six months?”  Well I am walking, talking living proof that something bad can happen in that period so, you know, and I was talking at a conference to somebody – I won’t mention who but, you know, they had – in our industry, they had recently changed jobs.  They were in their probation, I told them and they went, “Oh goodness, I hadn’t even thought about that.”  So, you know, we’re all guilty of it and I’m not sitting here Little Miss Perfect because I need to sort my will out.  So I haven’t sorted everything out but I’m just very glad that I did actually at least do that because to be perfectly honest that would have been frankly rather embarrassing if I’d had have had cancer and not been able to claim given obviously everything that I’ve done over the last few years.

Kathryn:       Well I think, you know, everyone can say that they’re very, very happy that you obviously had that in place and that you’ve had all the support that you’ve been able to get.  I know that you’ve mentioned there a few times that you obviously had the critical illness cover as well.  So I suppose, you know, like a lot of people when we’re looking at these things, you know, we talk about income protection, we talk about critical illness cover and one of the things that I find as an adviser is that sometimes – especially when we’re looking at the price of that kind of policy, you know, the policies, you know, it often becomes – people go, “Well I can only really afford one,” in a sense and I’m not saying sort of – for you to say which one’s better because they all have their own place and in an ideal world we all know that everybody would have both in many ways but obviously we’ve talked quite a bit about, you know, the fact that, you know, you did have sort of some income protection cover there and you did obviously have an employer who was unbelievably supportive which is fantastic but what did it mean to you to have that critical illness pay-out?  I mean, what kind of – I mean obviously there’s clearly the kitchen that we know is going to be benefited from it.

Emma:        Yes actually – somebody said yes that that is one thing and I said, you know, that rickety old utility room has been on my list of things to change for years but no, I did the, you know, I did what a lot of other advisers would talk to their clients about, you know, you can pay off either all or part of your mortgage so I did do the sensible thing with that.  I did do – and I’m not the only person ‘cos I have been speaking to other people who have been diagnosed with cancer obviously for various reasons – yeah, I haven’t done quite as crazy as what some of them have done but I did buy a camper van –

Kathryn:       Nice.

Emma:        Which was a bit of a, you know, sod it, I want a camper –

Kathryn:       Absolutely.

Emma:        Yeah, but anyway, it’s just was one of those things that I’d seen it, you know, a month or so before and I just thought oh well that’s not something that, you know, I can prioritise at the moment so it was kind of like oh, it would be nice to have, that would be nice to have and driving back from the hospital after the second meeting that I had, was, you know, it was still there.  So I thought maybe this is just meant to be so I went to go and have a look, had a test drive and I bought it pretty much on the spot.  So, you know, and that’s enabled me to go out and do things, you know, when I was off last year, you know, I was able to do small trips and it just kind of gave me a bit more of a purpose to do things and some, you know, and I talked about my dog Molly earlier, I was in the middle of adopting her so actually one of the things that was going through my mind sitting on that couch being told I had cancer was what do I do about Molly?  Because, you know, I was thinking am I going to be in a position to have a dog?  I didn’t know what my recovery was going to be and obviously having a dog when you’re trying to recover from major surgery isn’t the best and I live alone so it’s not like anyone else was here, you know, to be able to help so – but my parents said, “No, don’t be so stupid, of course we’re going to help out,” and my friends said they’ll help out as well so, you know, having Molly, you know, she gave me a reason to keep going as well and, you know, she was there, you know, she needed me as much as I needed her really at the time.  So I had the – got the camper van the day before the surgery and I got Molly a week after.  So it was all, yeah, the three Cs is what I kind of say.

Kathryn:       All meant to be.

Emma:        Camper van, cocker spaniel and cancer.

Kathryn:       Absolutely.  You’ve had the three Cs, no more Cs.  There we go.

Emma:        Absolutely, yeah.  No more Cs, no, definitely not, not unless it’s something like a Caribbean holiday or something.  That would be rather nice, especially given what we’re going through at the moment.

Kathryn:       Absolutely.

Emma:        But, you know, I’m still undergoing treatment, you know, it’s not over, I’ve got to have a mammogram every year and because of the pandemic, my mammogram appointment was delayed by three months.

Kathryn:       Right.

Emma:        So, you know, I have been affected by that and that was another sort of worry in case it threw up something, you know, and then I would be months behind and I mentioned my, you know, my cancer support group earlier, you know, a lot of the ladies that I know through that actually, they’ve had their treatment affected as well and some of them unfortunately, you know, they’re still going through really, really difficult periods of treatment.  So that’s not been great and I have still got well eight and a half years’ worth of treatment going forward because the cancer that I had effectively is boosted by hormones so I need to have a drug called Tamoxifen which I’m on, you know, it was prescribed to me for 10 years.  So I’ve got to have that every day and touch wood, you know, I’m not experiencing any major side effects.  I did have some side effects when I first started to take it but I think that was my body just getting used to it but my joints really seized up, I could barely walk for two days but other people have had far more severe effects and long-term effects as well so I’m just hoping that, you know, that doesn’t really affect me going forward.  So – but yeah, it’s just something, you know, it’s not something that you can just kind of put in a box and go, “Forget about it.”  It is there but I do count myself lucky that it wasn’t a hell of a lot worse that’s for sure, because a lot of people, you know, have far worse experiences than I have.

Kathryn:       Of course.  No, no, I know what you mean.  It’s really hard isn’t it to sort of like – ‘cos I understand what you’re saying about, you know, in a sense you feel lucky but at the same point like you said as well, you’re not lucky and it’s a very, very difficult one as well because I imagine as well you see so many things from other people that you must look and think, “Wow, my situation is quite lucky compared to that person, what they’re going through.”

Emma:        Yeah it is and – sorry I was just going to say, you know, and it is just that – it is that financial security but it is also, you know, I’m now without further protection if that makes sense.

Kathryn:       Yeah.

Emma:        You know, I’ve had my pay-outs and, you know, I’m certainly not sitting here on millions that’s for sure, you know, you always think with a bit of advice, “Oh, what if I just doubled my cover?”  You know?  But you didn’t, you know, but as I said, you know, I’m single so I’ve got to be self-reliant so a lot of that money has been put aside just because you just don’t know and certainly as I say, waiting for those extra tests and every year when I have this mammogram, you just think, “Well what if that happens again?”  Or if something else happens, you know, what if I have a stroke or other serious illness?  You just don’t know but, you know, as it is at the moment, you know, I’m not in a position of being able to just top up my cover, I can’t do that.

Kathryn:       I know you said as well that – previously when we chatted, that you’ve said that sometimes the way that people can say things can be really quite difficult to hear and I know there’s quite a lot of contention – because, you know, we see some things on social media saying, you know, it would be something like #cancersurvivor or #warrior and stuff like that and I think it’s possibly one of those situations where some people – some people I think in a sense like that in some ways, you know, they’re kind of like, “I am a cancer survivor,” but then you can also find that just as equally – just as many people can go, “Hang on a minute, don’t call me a warrior.  Don’t call me a survivor, this isn’t a battle that I chose and it’s an insult to anybody who hasn’t survived because that’s – how can you say they’ve not fought?” in a sense.  And I know you do have some specific sort of like examples as well so is there anything that kind of stands out to you?  I know, again you’re one and other people will be different to you but what kind of things sort of like stand out that you think, “You know what, just – even if you’re trying to say it in the nicest possible way, just don’t say that.”  Yeah?

Emma:        So I mean I think the whole cancer warrior survivor thing is actually quite a difficult one because that really is down to personal preference.  I mean, I don’t have a problem with that at all.  I mean, one easy example to kind of give is, I’m sure many of you will be aware that in a lot of hospitals, on the cancer wards, there’s a bell, you know, and once somebody is given the all-clear, they ring a bell.  Now, a lot of people obviously like that, you know, they like that sense of, you know, “My treatment has been completed, I’m finally leaving this hospital, I can go home to my loved ones.”  For a lot of people though, they have a real problem with that bell because there are a lot of people that will never, ever recover from their cancer and they will never leave that hospital bed and for them, they just feel, “It’s rubbing my nose in it.”

Kathryn:       Okay.

Emma:        So it’s really difficult and I would never have known that before all of this happened to me so it’s really difficult sometimes to know what to say when it comes to something that’s really black and white but what I have experienced – so just trying to get travel insurance, you know, that’s, you know, again, another reason why you’ve got to put money aside because things now cost more so my travel insurance is now a lot more than it ever used to be because of, you know, I’m seen as an obviously much higher risk which is kind of debatable.

But anyway, that’s another story but, you know, just calling up a specialist travel insurer that helps people who have had illnesses get cover, so they are used to talking to people with illnesses all the time, like we would be when we’re doing applications or helping claimants, but it’s just that, you know, you’re going through a form and, you know, “What’s your health issue?”  “Oh, you know, breast cancer.”  “Oh, that’s okay,” and it’s just that little thing of, I know nothing was meant by that but ultimately it’s not really okay and you would just expect somebody to at the very least say, “Oh I’m really sorry to hear that but, you know, all being well, we’re going to be able to help you.”  That’s kind of that – so just that kind of acknowledgement and I know it wasn’t any – nobody was meaning anything by it.  Ultimately their brain was just in work mode in terms of, “Yeah, that’s okay, I know we can cover people with breast cancer or who have had breast cancer.”

And it’s the same thing with us in our industry, you know, I’ve heard advisers for example going through the family history question and they’re asking it and the person has said, “Oh my father passed away at 67 from a heart attack.”  “Oh that’s okay.”  No it isn’t okay, that person’s lost their father, you know, “I’m sorry to hear that,” is really what you should be saying to them.

Kathryn:       Absolutely.

Emma:        Or, “Thank you ever so much for sharing that with me.”  But again, nothing’s meant by it, it’s just work mode.  “Oh that’s okay because it’s 67, not before the age of 65.”

Kathryn:       Yeah.

Emma:        So it’s just a question of just being mindful that you’re not just going through a process, going through the motions.  This is a person sharing something quite personal and potentially upsetting to them.

Kathryn:       Yes.

Emma:        So just, as I say, just acknowledge it.  Think about the words that you use because, you know, as I’ve said on previous sessions, you know, people don’t necessarily remember what you say to them but they certainly do remember how you make them feel so, you know, that’s just something that, you know, always resonates with me and it is so true.  So yeah, just think when you’re talking to your clients because we do have to have difficult conversations, that’s the nature of the industry that we’re in.  We can’t avoid them, this is what we do.  So, you know, just try and be prepared and think what you’re going to say.

Kathryn:       Absolutely, I think that’s a really good point, thank you.  Well I have a case study to provide for the advisers and then we can obviously have a little bit of a chat about what you’re doing at British Friendly and hear all the sort of like latest gossip and stuff maybe, if you can share things?  But in regards to a case study, I really wanted to share this one because I know that from an adviser point of view, there’s a lot of stuff in the industry at the moment obviously about insurers in a sense reducing their risk appetite with the corona virus and there are certain conditions that I think, you know, we can all say that, you know, the insurers are not necessarily targeting certain conditions, they’re reducing their sort of like – well they’re being more cautious, heightened cautiousness for everybody but there are certain conditions that are causing people to have more concern because of corona virus and, you know, there’s certain things like having a high BMI, high blood pressure, diabetes and also things like cancer sometimes causing a bit of concern.

But what I wanted to do is give an example of somebody who’s had cancer that we were able to provide protection insurance or life insurance for last month.  So it was a woman in her 40s and three years before speaking to us she had had stage one, grade two breast cancer and we knew that the cancer itself had been more than one centimetre in size.  She’d had a lumpectomy and there were – had been no lymph node involvements and there had been no spread to any other areas and with this one, just to say, a really quick example, so for her to cover the mortgage it was level life insurance of £100,000 over 20 years and that was about £33 per month and I just wanted to put that out there for advisers to hear just to sort of like go – I know there’s that caution at the moment and I know sometimes people are unsure as to what can and can’t be available for people but just – even if you are speaking to a client, even if you do hear cancer and you’re thinking, “Well hang on a minute, everything’s got stricter now,” it doesn’t necessarily mean that things are a no.  It just means that there maybe needs to be a slightly different research.  It may be that it’s insurers that – it could be insurers that you have on your panel, it may be people off your panel and in that case it’s a good idea to try and signpost to a company that you can trust and know will look after your client.

But getting back to you then, Emma, you have been with British Friendly for about two years now.  What’s it been like because I have to say, you’ve kind of turned on us haven’t you as advisers, you’ve gone from an adviser to insurer.  You’ve gone to the other side.

Emma:        The dark side as some people have said, yes.  I mean, I have – so, you know, yeah, October I’ll be celebrating two years at British Friendly but obviously it’s been a rather disjointed two years because – I mean, you know, I’ve pretty much now worked just over half of that but yeah, you know, I was off for a long period of time but I mean I, you know, it’s been great for me working for an income protection specialist, you know, for years I’ve been an advocate and campaigner for IP and I still am and I would still say in terms of, you know, your hierarchy of needs, that income protection is probably the product that most people should be taking out.  I appreciate obviously that, you know, there will be some people that do have sick pay in place but how long is that going to last them?  And as I touched on earlier, you know, people’s job situations can change, you know, we’re going to see people unfortunately losing their jobs because of this crisis.  We’re going to see people, you know, as they have been, moving from the employed market into the self-employed market, you know, contract workers and, you know, if they had only been relying on group schemes – by the time they actually then need to take out cover for themselves, they might have had a change in their health which might prevent them from doing so.

So it’s difficult to try and persuade somebody to try and double up but I would certainly – if they can, at the very least – even if it’s just a little bit so they’ve got something in place if something should be taken away from them when it comes to employee benefits.  It’s a difficult conversation but, you know, ‘cos we know how difficult it is to get people to understand the value of protection and actually pay for it but, you know, if somebody can do that then, you know, I think they should.  And I think, you know, as much as – and I said, I’m still a huge, huge advocate of IP, you know, my job at British Friendly is to try and boost the already award-winning proposition that we’ve got.  I am really conscious about the added cost of being sick and that’s not really what IP is designed to cover because obviously you’re covering to replace your salary but you’re not then covering the added costs that you might have to face.  So just an example from me, one of the added costs that I had while I was recovering which I would have had no idea to expect was having to go to the hairdresser to get my hair washed.  You know, for weeks and weeks and weeks, I wasn’t able to go in a shower –

Kathryn:       Right.

Emma:        Because, you know, I couldn’t get anything wet.

Kathryn:       Of course.

Emma:        So I had to go to the hairdressers twice a week just to get my hair washed and I couldn’t bend over a bath or a sink to do it myself just because of obviously my injuries so, you know, that was an added cost which, you know, fortunately I was fine to pay.  I was okay and I was in a position to pay but a lot of people who are really, really, you know, struggling financially, they would have found that really tough to do.

Kathryn:       Yeah.

Emma:        Another cost that I had immediately was – I had to buy surgical bras and they are not cheap, you know, a post-surgery bra, you know – I was looking at £50 – £50, £60 each so, you know, that’s a lot of money for some people to find.

Kathryn:       Yeah.

Emma:        So for me, absolutely yeah I still think IP is the top of that hierarchy of needs but critical illness does obviously help people to find money for those extra costs so even if somebody can’t afford obviously, you know, the full amount to pay their mortgage off or whatever it is, you know, even if they can just take out £20,000, even £10,000, you know, just something small that would give them a little lump sum that would just help them with those added costs that they might have to face, whether that be for their own health, whether that be to help somebody look after them or they might have to – the taxi costs that people have.

I mean, again, I mean I’ve mentioned the word lucky a number of times but, you know, those of us who have had cancer, compared to some other conditions, are a little bit more lucky in some ways because everyone knows about cancer and when it comes to things like hospital parking, you know, I didn’t have to pay for hospital parking because I was, you know, going to get cancer treatment.  If I had been seriously ill with another type of treatment that I’d have to be going back to the hospital with, that doesn’t count.  You know, it’s not seen in the same way.  So there are a lot of people with really serious illnesses that will be facing costs that actually for some people with cancer they don’t have.  So it’s – yeah, it’s a tricky one to try and balance but really, you know, look at all the options available, you know, don’t just look at the maximum, think about how you can fit something within a budget because absolutely something is going to be better than nothing at all, you know, and as you’ll know Kathryn, you know, you do this all the time and if you’re not a specialist adviser, you know, seek out a partnership, seek out somebody that can help you to make sure that your clients can walk away, you know, with that safety net in place that can hopefully be topped up at a later date but at least they’ll be hopefully walking away with something, you know, now that will give them, you know, give them some level of protection.

Kathryn:       Absolutely.  I think it’s – again, something you said there really stands out.  So I was playing about with some risk calculators over the weekend, as you do, and I did one and it was saying something like – so I’m 35, a non-smoker and it was just a really quite simple sort of like risk calculator which basically said based upon statistics and data and everything, you know, that you’re a woman, you’re 35, you’re a non-smoker, that I’ve got 5% of chance dying in a sense, you know, sort of unexpectedly but I’ve got a 41% chance of being unable to work for more than two months and I mean that’s a massive difference, you know, it’s a huge difference and I don’t know if we necessarily hit home to people as much, you know, especially with income protection – I know income protection is getting quite a bit of a surge I think at the moment of people wanting it.  As advisers I’m sure other ones are having the same as me, we’re having that kind of awkward conversation with some clients because they’re coming and going, “Well I want it to protect me if I’m made redundant.”  And it’s a case of, “Well no, that’s not what it does.”  And then people are like, “I don’t understand why it doesn’t do that because it’s protecting my income, it’s called income protection.”  And there’s kind of like that complexity of, you know, obviously from inside the industry we know exactly what that means but, you know, I think it’s quite hard sometimes, you’ve got people coming and they’re so positive and then you’re saying to them, “Well actually it’s not going to do what you want,” and they kind of go, “Oh.”  And so they suddenly go a bit negative but you’re going, “But it’s still really, really good and you should look at it for this reason –”

Emma:        Yeah.

Kathryn:       And there’s this kind of wave of emotions of trying to get it but I think that was really, really important sort of like to just say and yes, you’re right, absolutely to hit home how important income protection is and I think, you know, with corona virus and everything and people – especially people who are getting the long Covid symptoms it’s, you know, this is a time where, you know, obviously without going into the part of sort of like really scaring people into getting it clearly, you know, there’s a very strict line that we need to have there.  It is just the perfect time to kind of say, you know, “This is why this insurance is so important.”

Emma:        Yeah, just don’t leave it until too late.  I mean, one of my friends who I recommend my friends and family to, you know, she’s had one or two clients that she’s been trying to get to, you know, she’s advised them and they’ve been, “Oh, I’ll think about it, I’ll think about it” or, “I’ll just wait until that happens, I’ll wait until that happens,” and then unfortunately something then does happen to their health and then they’re not able to get the cover that she was trying to get them to take out six months before and that’s just really sad, you know, we’re all guilty of putting stuff off.  Particularly things that we don’t want to do.  We don’t want to be paying money –

Kathryn:       No.

Emma:        You know, for protection and we don’t want to ever have to claim on it and that’s the sad thing but, you know, that’s why it’s important to be talking about all the added value services that many insurers provide, you know, at British Friendly we’ve got a big suite of products, you know, to provide all those extra things.  I mean I’ve talked about the second medical opinion and, you know, I did use the Best Doctors service because I had my AIG cover but, you know, we use Square Health and they have a second medical opinion service and there’s lots of different insurers that offer these fabulous things that go alongside all the products that we sell whether it be virtual GP services.  I mean counselling, when you think about all the difficulties that people are facing, you know, mental health-wise at the moment, you know, those services are so important and then there’s the nice things to have, you know, which some insurers, you know, like we offer, you know, your retail discounts and other kind of rewards for having cover in place so it’s trying to get people to understand how the policies that we sell can help them day to day, week to week, not just when tragedy strikes.  And hopefully through that we can get people to understand more about the value, you know, because we want to be providing good value cover and these added value services are doing just that and I think, going forward, we perhaps just need to make more of them, particularly given the challenges that we’re all facing with the pandemic but also just making sure that we’re doing as much as we can and that is insurers and advisers alike to make sure that clients understand what they’ve bought, what they can claim on and what they can use –

Kathryn:       Absolutely.

Emma:        Because sometimes we’re not always the best at doing that.  We’ve definitely got so much better in the last few years, that’s for sure as a collective industry but all of us have got a key responsibility to make sure that customers understand it so they can keep cover in place and keep reviewing it as well.  That’s the other thing, you know, make sure that as advisers we’re helping clients to review their cover regularly, as insurers we’re helping advisers to do that, that we’re creating flexible products that can move with peoples’ change in circumstances.  There’s a whole lot of things that we’ve all got to build on and I’m not saying everything’s perfect, that’s for sure, but it’s definitely important and, you know, if I hadn’t reviewed my cover I certainly would have – not massively struggled but it certainly wouldn’t have given me the peace of mind that I had and, you know, I was lucky that both my critical illness policies paid out and my experience with both of them was, you know, overall good.  You know, I spoke to some really, you know, caring, understanding people which made a huge difference to me and particularly my PMI Vitality claim, you know, that was great because I had a dedicated claims manager that I would speak to regularly because obviously to them – and they are still paying out for me because I’m still obviously having treatment, you know, that made a world of difference actually having that support.  So, you know, it’s been good in a way.  I say it’s been good in a way, obviously I would have preferred not to be in this position but after years of, you know, promoting the value of protection, it’s been a helpful – I say helpful rather than good –

Kathryn:       Yeah.

Emma:        To be on the other side of the fence and be on the receiving end and understand what works.  I have, you know, it wasn’t all perfect with all three insurers.  There definitely were a few things so that’s helped me learn.  I’ve obviously fed back to them, you know, in my professional capacity so that they can kind of, you know, they knew where things weren’t quite right.  But overall, you know, it was a good experience, it was a good test and yeah it’s, you know, certainly just made me more passionate for the good work that we do.  That’s for sure.

Kathryn:       Brilliant.  That’s fantastic and I think sort of like a really good time for us to sort of start to bring the podcast to a close.  So you are involved in our truth or lie feature, Emma.  So what we’re going to be doing everybody is talking about what our favourite TV show was as a child.  So I will go first, give Emma a chance to have a little think.  So mine was Count Duckula.  Loved him.

Emma:        I – oh goodness me, I had quite a few to be perfectly honest but I think I’m going to probably go with Mysterious Cities of Gold.

Kathryn:       Don’t know if I’ve ever seen that.  Obviously, I’m going to have find that one, going to have to go find it now.  Fantastic.

Emma:        Well you see, you are lucky enough to be a few years younger than me so maybe that’s why it wasn’t quite on your radar but yes, it was – yeah, there were just so many but I’ll pick that one.

Kathryn:       There were a lot of shows.

Emma:        I definitely remember watching that one, that’s for sure.

Kathryn:       Thank you so much.

Emma:        It’s okay.  Thank you ever so much Kathryn, it’s been really good.

Kathryn:       Thank you.  Well obviously as well thank you Emma, thank you everybody for listening.  It’s been really, really good and informative to just hear all those different things about how, you know, the fact that, you know, there’s that kind of process of it’s the next hurdle, what actually radiotherapy is like, you know, I had no idea about the tattoos and things like that.  That’s something that’s completely –

Emma:        It was a bit of a shock, they didn’t prepare for me to say, you know, it was just like “Oh we need to tattoo you now.”  I was like, “What?  Tattoos?”

Kathryn:       You see, I’m just thinking of my tattoo artist actually coming up out of the corner with his long hair, covered in tattoos and just goes, “Right, here you go.”  I’m sure it wasn’t like that.

Emma:        But it is, you know, it is – yeah, I mean, it’s just so many things that you’ve just got to think that you wouldn’t have had to do.  I mean I haven’t actually touched on the fact that I then had to have other surgery to kind of even me up, you know, it was just that that I hadn’t even thought about and then, you know, it is – my scars do hurt regularly.  They itch, you know, it’s just those things that you’ve just got to live with but as I said, you know, overall, I, you know, am very grateful for my experience and I said I have had a brilliant surgeon and that just goes to show how important being in the right hands, you know, is.  I wish I could say the same for my oncologist but that’s another story.  Luckily I only have to see him once a year!

Kathryn:       That’s a completely separate podcast isn’t it, that one?

Emma:        I know but it’s –

Kathryn:       That’s just 50 minutes of letting you to talk –

Emma:        But actually with him it’s a class example of what we were saying about the importance of what you say and he has no empathy and he’s absolutely just a clinician.

Kathryn:       Right.

Emma:        He will just come out with stuff without actually thinking about the impact it could have on you.  There is just no sense of kind of sympathy or what you could be going through at all and as a result, you know, unfortunately he’s just not necessarily the right person to do that job.

Kathryn:       Yeah.

Emma:        But I’m sure he’s brilliant in terms of actually the scientific side of things but it just goes to show the importance of how you say things and what you say as well as obviously what you know.  But as I said, you know, overall I have been – I have been lucky, I will use that word again.  I have been lucky, you know, and also – I actually would like to take this opportunity just to say, I have been also super, super lucky with the amount of people – the amount of family, friends, colleagues, you know, industry that have given me so much support which has just been amazing and I know that, you know, I’m not the only one in our industry that has gone through some really tough times recently.

Kathryn:       Yeah.

Emma:        There are quite a few of us.

Kathryn:       Yeah.

Emma:        You know, and that – it’s awful but, you know, it’s going to happen isn’t it?  We’re here, you know, as I said, walking testament for the value of the work that we do.  So we just need to try and help more consumers have that peace of mind in place.

Kathryn:       Absolutely.  You’re completely right Emma.  I am going to be back in two weeks’ time but I may be back with a little surprise inbetweeny-sode, a little extra episode next week possibly so everybody watch this space.  So if you’d like a reminder of that, please do drop me a message on social media or visit the website www.practical-protection.co.uk and don’t forget that if you have listened, you can claim a CPD certificate on the website too.  So again, thank you so much Emma.

Emma:        Thank you.

Kathryn:       Bye.

Emma:        Bye.

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Emma Thomson - A Breast Cancer Journey

Hi everyone, this week I am chatting to Emma Thomson, Product Strategist at British Friendly.

Last year Emma was diagnosed with breast cancer and she is joining me on the podcast to talk about her experience of having cancer, her treatment and her tips on reviewing your protection insurances.

Emma is chatting about the extra costs of cancer too, the things that people often don't talk about e.g. post-surgery bras. She also tells us how she now has 3 tattoos thanks to her treatment, something that she never expected and I think that she sounds quite relieved that they are only tiny dots.

With no family history of cancer and a negative result on the BRCA gene, Emma is an example of how cancer can happen to anybody. Working in protection insurance all of her life, she had the foresight to get private medical insurance, critical illness cover and income protection in place, all of which were able to support her during her diagnosis and recovery.

The 3 key takeaways:

  1. How you can use lemons to help spot the symptoms of cancer.
  2. The importance of reviewing your protection insurance, especially if you are changing jobs and your employee benefits change.
  3. A case study about getting life insurance for a client that had breast cancer, whilst stricter underwriting decisions have been in place due to coronavirus.

I might be back sooner than usual with another Inbetweenysode. Watch this space!!

In two weeks I will be chatting with Richard Lemmon, my Dad, about his experiences living with Parkinson's disease.

Kathryn:       Hi everyone, today I have Emma Thomson with me from British Friendly – hi Emma.

Emma:        Hi Kathryn, how are you?

Kathryn:       I’m good thank you, I’m just going to like sort of get myself a cup of tea, a quick drink of that and it’s all sorted so I don’t do that.  How are you?

Emma:        I am good, the sun is shining here in lovely Lincoln which is great after not such great weather recently so that’s always a bonus especially on a Monday.

Kathryn:       Absolutely, absolutely especially with taking the dog out for walks as well and that’s just –

Emma:        Yes.

Kathryn:       Perfect, isn’t it?  Well today everybody we’re going to be talking about Emma and her experience of being diagnosed with breast cancer, the things that she found useful on her road to recovery, the things that she didn’t find so useful and we’ll be talking about how her protection insurances were able to help her during this time.  So this is the Practical Protection podcast.  So Emma, obviously we just heard that the sun is shining, lovely for you.  How has it been for you this weekend?  What have you been up to?

Emma:        Well I’m actually having a kitchen extension done next month all being well, I know, we’re nearly in October aren’t we which is quite scary.

Kathryn:       Yeah.

Emma:        So I’ve had to do a lot of clearing out because it’s going into my garage and you know what garages are like.  I’ve had to do a lot of sorting so yes, but then I also got to see some friends as well so that was all good.

Kathryn:       Oh lovely, that sounds absolutely amazing.  I was going to say, I think – I’m sort of like picturing now sort of really nice mood lighting, one of those central bar type things that you can work at.  Are we doing all that kind of stuff or?

Emma:        Not quite on that scale, no.

Kathryn:       Oh okay.

Emma:        But it will definitely be an improvement ‘cos I’ve got a rather rickety sort of like lean-to awful utility room thing at the moment which needs demolishing so that’s going to go so it will be a huge improvement which will be great and, yes, my dog Molly will have a far nicer space for her to chill out in as well.  That’s where she is at the moment, stuck in the kitchen so she doesn’t start woofing at us.

Kathryn:       Brilliant, I was going to say that’s the main thing, make sure it is doggy friendly and that it’s absolutely her little kingdom.  Fantastic.  So we do have a truth or lie feature on the podcast and last time – so you get to guess this time as to who is telling the truth and who’s lying.  So last time we had Vicky Churcher on and she said that the last film that she watched was Spartacus and I said mine was Avengers.  So who do you think was telling the truth?

Emma:        I’m going to go – oh it’s a tough one, let’s go with Vicky.

Kathryn:       Vicky’s telling the truth?  Vicky was lying!

Emma:        Ugh.

Kathryn:       This is the first time that I’ve not been caught out, this is incredible.  I do think though, last time I said The Avengers which I think is completely different to actually what I’m meaning.  Yeah, I meant The Avengers with the, you know, the Groot – I am Groot thing.  So yeah, my – all my films now are kid-friendly and what we can watch with them.  But yes, so that was good.  For everybody who was listening, I don’t know what Vicky’s last film was, I’m sorry I can’t give that information to everybody.  Obviously Emma thank you so much for joining me.  I think it’s a good idea to get straight into things, you know, you’ve been very open about the fact that you were diagnosed with breast cancer and that obviously your treatment and your recovery and you’ve spoken really passionately at the recent think tanks with British Friendly online pipeline – so you were with myself and Steph Hydon about conversations that can be supportive when somebody’s had a cancer – and then sometimes things that can be said that people maybe say in probably the most sincere supportive manner but actually they maybe don’t come across quite right.  So can you just start off please by telling everybody in a sense how you found out that you had breast cancer?

Emma:        So, well yeah, it’s over a year now since kind of this all started so it was sort of March-time, I think it was where, as you do, you know, I’m just scrolling through social media and I saw an image on one of the posts from an organisation who promotes this image called Know Your Lemons and essentially for those of you who haven’t seen Know Your Lemons, and I would absolutely urge you to have a look to, you know, especially if you’re female but even if you’re, you know, a guy – guys do get breast cancer as well and also you might be able to share it with the female loved ones in your life as well.  So Know Your Lemons literally has lemons in a large egg box and the lemons are there to illustrate the different changes that a woman or a man might experience in their breasts.  And I just saw this image and being open, one of them was to do with inverted or sunken nipples and I thought, “Okay, that’s kind of me.”  So I went along to the GP and I got referred and went along to my local hospital and had all the tests and, you know, I wasn’t really sure what to expect.  I thought I would just rock up, you know, have a couple of tests, go home and then be told by my GP, you know, as and when afterwards and I don’t have any history of breast cancer in my family.  I don’t really have any history of cancer at all in my family so I wasn’t really expecting the bad news that I got.

But as it turned out on the day, I had many tests in the hospital and I kept going back into the waiting room and then having another one and then as soon as they then called me from the waiting room that last time and then took me into a room with sofas and cushions, I thought, “Right, I kind of know what’s coming here.”  And yes, and whilst they couldn’t give me a complete diagnosis at that point ‘cos I’d literally walked in there that morning, they did sit down and they just said, you know, “We’re sorry to have to tell you but we are pretty, pretty sure that you’ve got breast cancer.”  So that was that and because I wasn’t really sure what to expect, I had gone by myself and so receiving that news by myself was obviously, you know, an extra shock and, you know, I didn’t really tell anybody because as I said, I wasn’t really expecting anything and also my Dad’s health had been really awful so I didn’t want to create extra worry for my parents so I just kind of kept it – nobody even knew I was going to the doctor for a check-up.  So it was, yeah – it was quite a difficult day.  That’s probably an understatement but yeah, it was a difficult time, that’s for sure.

Kathryn:       I was going to say, I mean that’s really intense.  In many ways, it’s so good isn’t it that you went in in the morning and by the end of the day you had that knowledge.  I mean, I know it’s not good in a sense, obviously I’m not saying it’s good –

Emma:        Yeah.

Kathryn:       Being told you have breast cancer and it’s, you know, it’s certainly not but the fact that you were able to find that out in some ways, so, so quickly is really, really incredible.  I know you’ve mentioned the Know Your Lemons image and I remember you saying that when you were speaking about it afterwards and I went and I found it and I thought it was so powerful and if anybody who sort of like isn’t sure where to find it or anything, I’ll put a little link into the website for it and I also did a little video about it, about, you know, Stop, Look, Listen kind of thing where I’m jiggling my boobs on the screen and stuff like that, as you do.  But it is such a powerful thing to just look at – to literally look at lemons and think actually –

Emma:        It is such a simple image, you know, whoever created that was a genius really because it just shows so easily, you know, and I’ve seen other sort of material where, you know, it’s drawn women with their boobs and obviously, you know, what you should be looking out for but the lemon one was so much easier.

Kathryn:       Well I was going to say, it’s so easy and also I think it’s such a vivid picture as well, you know, obviously when you’re scrolling through social media, the main thing, you know, if something’s brightly coloured and a bit different, it really stands out and that’s like – I think these bright yellow lemons, you know, with a pink background – it really does catch your eye.

Emma:        Yeah.  Absolutely.  So, you know, a lot of people knock social media for so many reasons and in a lot of ways, you know, rightly so, it’s not always good but certainly for me, I don’t know, you know, how much longer it would have been before I’d have gone to get checked out because, you know, you normally just think of lumps and bumps when it comes to cancer, particularly breast cancer, and at the time, I’m not quite so well endowed at the moment but at the time, you know, I did have big boobs, you know, being honest, I did and unfortunately for a lot of women who have got big boobs, it is far more difficult for them to actually find lumps just because obviously there’s more there.

Kathryn:       Of course.

Emma:        So, you know, that illustration, you know, was really, really helpful to me.

Kathryn:       Of course, well obviously thank you and if – I suppose if you feel okay to, do you mind sort of chatting us through the treatment and what it felt like to go through that process?  Because I know again you’ve spoken about your treatment but I think there’s sometimes so many different ways that it’s kind of treated.  It would be really good to sort of like have a bit of a breakdown as to what it was like.

Emma:        Well the first thing I’d actually like to say is in that room with the sofas and the cushions, one of the things that stood out to me, you know, I had a breast care nurse who was, you know, well a doctor gave me that diagnosis and a breast care nurse stayed to answer queries and talk about what the next steps were but one thing as a protection professional that really stood out for me was she actually asked if I’m worried about money and she asked what sick pay I had and, you know, then I obviously got talking to her on that and to some extent it kind of helped kind of taking me out of the whole personal side of things and actually, you know, get my professional hat on and, you know, that was really interesting for me that she – that was one of the first questions she asked which just illustrates that there would have been a lot of people sitting in that room before me who would have been not just worried about their health but really worried about their income and their financial vulnerability as well going forward, you know, and luckily, you know, I didn’t have to worry about that.

Kathryn:       Yeah.

Emma:        Which, you know, this is why we do what we do and this is what we say to our clients, you know, over and over again, you know, protection is there so you can just worry about your health and you don’t have to worry about money particularly, obviously on the IP and critical illness side.  So, you know, for me that was just really interesting but I mean after that day, I went back the following week which was when they would have gone through, you know, all the tests to know exactly what it was that they were facing and I was facing.  I met my breast care surgeon for the first time who was amazing and I’m really lucky actually that before that meeting, two people – one lady was a friend of my mum who had actually had him as her surgeon and another friend of mine, his mum had had cancer and she’d also had him as their surgeon so even before meeting him, you know, I had reassurance that he was a good guy and he was.  He has been amazing and in that meeting, you know, he talked through what was going to happen.  I was luckily in that I didn’t need to have a full mastectomy, I just needed a lumpectomy but even at that point though it’s always, “This is what we think but we can’t guarantee it because until we’re kind of there, we don’t really know 100%,” and as it turned out, they thought initially that my cancer was a grade two invasive cancer but it wasn’t.  As it turned out after the surgery, it got confirmed that it was actually grade three.

Kathryn:       Okay.

Emma:        So I had that and then in that meeting, you know, I am lucky that I had private medical insurance so I was able to say, “Well actually I’ve got this cover,” and so even in that first meeting with him, he was getting his diary out and saying, “Well actually, if you do have that cover, you know, I can pretty much get you in,” and it was two and a half weeks later.

Kathryn:       Wow.

Emma:        So within a month of me pretty much – I would say probably a month from me going to see my GP to actually being on the operating table, you know, which a lot of people, you know, aren’t lucky enough to have and obviously when it comes to cancer, the faster the better really.  So that’s kind of what happened so I had my surgery on 17th May, yeah so actually it must have been – sorry I’m – it’s very difficult trying to remember so it must have been April when I went to the see the GP not the March.

Kathryn:       Yeah.

Emma:        So it was 17th May when I had my surgery and fortunately it was just a lumpectomy that he needed but then it’s various stages in the process ‘cos you kind of get over that hurdle and then you’ve got to then wait to – for them to actually have done, you know –

Kathryn:       The tests.

Emma:        Done the tech to see what you’re going to need so then the whole thing over my head was, “Am I going to need to have chemotherapy?”  I knew I was definitely going to have to have radiotherapy whatever happened but it was, “Am I going to need chemo?”  And then, you know, I then had the appointment where it was told that I didn’t need chemotherapy so again that was another relief.

Kathryn:       Yeah.

Emma:        So I then had, do you know, I think it was 23 – 23 radiotherapy sessions –

Kathryn:       Right.

Emma:        Which is quite a reasonable number from what I hear ‘cos some people go, “Ooh that’s quite a lot,” and to be quite honest I don’t know what the average is so I don’t know whether that’s really bad in terms of numbers or, you know, I’m sure there are a lot of people that have to have unfortunately a lot more radiotherapy than that but yeah, so every single day I had to go and have radiotherapy, really quite quick.  You’re in and out within, you know, sort of five minutes but –

Kathryn:       Are you able to sort of like explain what radiotherapy is ‘cos I know we hear stuff like this and, you know, I’m the same as you in a sense that touch wood, no one in my family has had cancer or well they have but it’s been skin cancer, it’s not been more something that’s inside and so they’ve not needed things like radiotherapy.  So with the radiotherapy itself, what kind of happens when you go to those appointments?

Emma:        Yeah so you kind of – so you walk into this room, there’s like a massive machine above you and because – so for me it was my left breast that was affected so the added complication with that is that, you know, they’re blasting, you know, the area affected and, you know, but because my heart is also there, they have to be really careful.  So I was really lucky.  Only a few months before that, so Lincoln County hospital is where I went to and only a few months before they’d started pioneering this particular technique to try and essentially move the heart away from the affected area when they’re blasting and with that essentially what I had to do was hold my breath in.  So you have to lie down, they’re like, you know, fiddling about with you to get it in the right place.  I also, you know, I’ve never had a tattoo in my life but unfortunately I now do have three tattoos because I’ve got a dot here, a dot here and a dot here because that’s what they use to line me up.

Kathryn:       Okay.

Emma:        So I’m marked for life.

Kathryn:       You’re wild aren’t you Emma?  Three tattoos?

Emma:        I’m always the one, not just scars.  So, but yeah, so then they – I mean literally as it doesn’t take long, it wasn’t really painful, it became more sore as time went on but that’s what I was expecting.  But yeah, so, you know, they kind of had to tell me, “Right, hold your breath in,” so you’d hold your breath in and then they’d zap you and then that was that and then you’d walk out.  So if they could get it right in terms of lining you up, then – as I said, you were in and out in five minutes really and the team there were great.  I didn’t have that on my private medical insurance because actually to have that done privately, I would have had to travel to Nottingham every day which is over an hour away which obviously wasn’t ideal.

Kathryn:       Yeah.

Emma:        But it was absolutely fine to go with the NHS and as I said, I was lucky that the hospital had pioneered this new technique.  If I’d have gone somewhere else and I know through my cancer support group, other ladies who had the same treatment before me who didn’t have that –

Kathryn:       Right.

Emma:        So there was an added risk really of them damaging the heart which is, you know, it’s just something else you’ve got to think of.  It’s not just cancer you’ve got to consider, it’s all the other bits and bobs that go along with it.

Kathryn:       Absolutely, yeah.

Emma:        So that happened, so radiotherapy completed – one thing I would say is that through my insurance, I had access to second medical opinion services, so I contacted Best Doctors and they recommended that I have the BRCA test, the one that Angelina Jolie had.

Kathryn:       Yeah.

Emma:        Which really is to – just to see what your – effectively what your chances of having cancer again are.

Kathryn:       Yeah.

Emma:        And for me, you know, I do have a sister so it was important that I wanted to have that test and if that had come back positive, then my sister and my mum would have, you know, they would have had to have further tests themselves but actually, you know, that came back clear.  So again that was just sort of another hurdle to kind of get through, waiting for those results to come back and overall, you know, I guess I have been pretty, you know, given the circumstances I’ve been pretty lucky.  I didn’t have to have a full mastectomy, I didn’t have to have chemo, I did have a negative result on my BRCA test and, you know, I was able to benefit from all the protection policies that I had in place so I didn’t have to worry about money and my employer, British Friendly, were absolutely amazing as well through all of this.  So I didn’t have to worry about going back to work before I was ready, you know, in fact I did go back to work before they thought I was because they kept saying, you know, “Take your time, take your time,” but I wanted to get back so, you know, but those things, you know, are really, really important ‘cos you just want to focus on just trying to cope with this devastating news that you’ve just had.  So –

Kathryn:       Absolutely.  Something – there’s a couple of things there that you’ve said that sort of like really stood out for me.  I saw a newspaper article, I think it was yesterday and it really got to me at the time and it was about this mum who’s – I can’t remember if she’s – she was in the UK and basically before lockdown, she was meant to start some kind of I think clinical trial or something in regards to her cancer and obviously with Covid and everything and lockdown, everything stopped, she’s not been able to get it and she’s basically been – I think she’s had to try and raise £160,000 or something and she’s been going door to door with her neighbours just saying to them, “Please can you just give me something,” and apparently she went up to one person – I saw a little bit of it and – in a sense, I know it’s terrible but I had to stop reading because I was getting so upset and she’d sort of like started to go up to somebody’s drive and they’d been mean to her and sort of like basically saying, “What are you doing coming up my drive?” kind of thing.  And she just said that it just kind of broke her heart that someone had been like that, you know, she’d plucked up so much courage just to – ‘cos she felt obviously like, “I can’t go and ask people,” but then she’d plucked up this courage to ask and then it was really hard for her and it just, you know, what you were saying there about just having like the private medical insurance so you can just get into the system as quick as possible, even though, you know, like what you said, you’ve gone private to a certain level and then obviously you kind of then switch to the NHS it can just sometimes get you through things.  It’s just – it really, really stands out how important it is.

Emma:        It is and I do, you know, obviously given what’s going on at the moment, you know, I just keep thinking, if my diagnosis had been a year later, you know, I would have been – I would have had a different situation.  I know I would have had a completely different experience and I just feel really awful for all the women and men who are going through this now because yeah, as I said, you just want that treatment as quickly as possible.  I mean, one thing that, you know, I have said on a number of events is that I want everybody, you know, from one professional to all of you watching this, we are really good at saying to customers, you know, our clients, what they should do to make sure that they are protected and we’re not always the best at taking our own advice, you know, you think about the builder who hasn’t sorted out his own extension or the plumber that’s got a drippy tap.  You know, really good at looking after clients but don’t always follow our own advice.

So I was really lucky, again feeling lucky, you know, had cancer but you can still feel lucky about stuff, that I – that six months before my diagnosis I changed jobs and that prompted me to review my cover which I hadn’t done for far too long.  I should have done it and I didn’t but I did and I’m so grateful that I did because I had a larger critical illness pay-out than I would have done.  The one – I did have a policy that I’d taken out when I was 24 and that did pay out which was great but, you know, I did increase the cover and importantly I recognised and I spotted that, during my probation period in my new job, I wouldn’t have had the extra benefits so I took on my PMI myself so I transferred it from a group scheme into a personal scheme with the plan of moving it back into a group scheme when I qualified and it was in that period that pretty much I got diagnosed so I wouldn’t have had that cover if I hadn’t have changed it.  And also income protection as well, I wouldn’t have had group IP when I changed jobs.

As it turns out, I’d passed my probation earlier so I did qualify for it but I now have personal IP which I obviously will struggle to get for many years to come.  So even though I’m kind of doubled up on cover now and a lot of people would say, “Well why don’t you just cancel that because it’s wasted money every month?”  For me, I know that, if I should change jobs again or if the scheme changes, you know, these are things that people should be thinking about, you know, we’re not really in jobs for life any more.  I was I my last job for 18 years, I’m not planning on going anywhere at British Friendly but, you know, things do happen but at least I know that I’ve got that added security of my own personal cover because my circumstances have changed.

So please, if you haven’t reviewed your own cover or your partner’s cover, your loved ones, whoever, then please do.  You know, for years I tried to get family and friends to buy insurance and unfortunately it took me getting cancer for some of them to actually go, “Oh my goodness Emma, yeah, you know, you’ve been banging on at me for years, maybe I do need some of that cover now.”  And they have now taken out policies so, you know, don’t give up on your family and friends.  Just keep nudging them ‘cos it is important.

Kathryn:       That is, you know, some really, really good points there because as you say, you know, I think sometimes, you know, you kind of – once you’re doing something all day every day yourself, when you get home, the last thing you necessarily want to do is sort out your own cover and do things like that but so, so important and I don’t think a lot of people would have thought about that, you know, obviously because you’re in this and obviously you’re really on top of these types of things in our industry, you’ve known, like, “Hang on a minute, that probation period – could I – could that maybe change things?”  And I don’t think a lot of people would necessarily think that and I certainly think people who aren’t in our industry, I think the majority of people wouldn’t think that.  The amount of people I speak to and I’m chatting away to them and I’m saying, “Oh, do you have through work do you have this and do you have that?” and it does seem – I think I’m probably – I think there’s probably more people are starting to be aware of that now but it’s still a lot of people just do not know if their cover for things – or they’ll go, “Oh I am covered for something but I don’t know what.” And that’s often the answer we get is they’ll just go, “I do get a little bit of sick pay but I’m not sure what it is,” and you have to sort of like say to them, “Okay right well it’s really, really important that, you know, that we find out exactly what that is before we kind of really get to a proper recommendation stage because it’s, you know, it can just change the way that we approach things completely.”

And it’s – I think a big thing of it as well is just that the fact that – and it’s not being critical of employers or stuff like that but I think, you know, with employers we’ve got that much things to do – obviously I’m an employer myself – so many different things to do and sometimes making sure that you have these things sort of like in a folder, really easy for people to access and that you send them reminders of it all the time.  It’s – it can be quite I think difficult and for some companies it can sort of like be a bit difficult and I think as well, sometimes I’ve had it before where I’ve said to people, “Oh you need to go – it’s probably your HR team, you need to go speak to one of the HR and they’ll find it out for you,” and then they’ll come back to me and go, “The HR team haven’t got a clue what we’re on about.”  I’m like, “But they’re the company – they’re really the department that really needs to know this kind of thing.”

Emma:        I know.  I mean obviously things have changed for new people starting, you know, there is an onus for new people starting for employers to tell them but there’s no onus for them to actually tell all the existing staff members that they’ve got already which I think is where that legislation has kind of missed a trick but I think – the other thing is that a lot of people just go, “Well it’s only like three months sick –”  I mean, my probation was six months but it was kind of – well it didn’t turn out to be six months but that was what I was kind of facing, no cover for six months and you just think, “Well what’s really going to happen in six months?”  Well I am walking, talking living proof that something bad can happen in that period so, you know, and I was talking at a conference to somebody – I won’t mention who but, you know, they had – in our industry, they had recently changed jobs.  They were in their probation, I told them and they went, “Oh goodness, I hadn’t even thought about that.”  So, you know, we’re all guilty of it and I’m not sitting here Little Miss Perfect because I need to sort my will out.  So I haven’t sorted everything out but I’m just very glad that I did actually at least do that because to be perfectly honest that would have been frankly rather embarrassing if I’d had have had cancer and not been able to claim given obviously everything that I’ve done over the last few years.

Kathryn:       Well I think, you know, everyone can say that they’re very, very happy that you obviously had that in place and that you’ve had all the support that you’ve been able to get.  I know that you’ve mentioned there a few times that you obviously had the critical illness cover as well.  So I suppose, you know, like a lot of people when we’re looking at these things, you know, we talk about income protection, we talk about critical illness cover and one of the things that I find as an adviser is that sometimes – especially when we’re looking at the price of that kind of policy, you know, the policies, you know, it often becomes – people go, “Well I can only really afford one,” in a sense and I’m not saying sort of – for you to say which one’s better because they all have their own place and in an ideal world we all know that everybody would have both in many ways but obviously we’ve talked quite a bit about, you know, the fact that, you know, you did have sort of some income protection cover there and you did obviously have an employer who was unbelievably supportive which is fantastic but what did it mean to you to have that critical illness pay-out?  I mean, what kind of – I mean obviously there’s clearly the kitchen that we know is going to be benefited from it.

Emma:        Yes actually – somebody said yes that that is one thing and I said, you know, that rickety old utility room has been on my list of things to change for years but no, I did the, you know, I did what a lot of other advisers would talk to their clients about, you know, you can pay off either all or part of your mortgage so I did do the sensible thing with that.  I did do – and I’m not the only person ‘cos I have been speaking to other people who have been diagnosed with cancer obviously for various reasons – yeah, I haven’t done quite as crazy as what some of them have done but I did buy a camper van –

Kathryn:       Nice.

Emma:        Which was a bit of a, you know, sod it, I want a camper –

Kathryn:       Absolutely.

Emma:        Yeah, but anyway, it’s just was one of those things that I’d seen it, you know, a month or so before and I just thought oh well that’s not something that, you know, I can prioritise at the moment so it was kind of like oh, it would be nice to have, that would be nice to have and driving back from the hospital after the second meeting that I had, was, you know, it was still there.  So I thought maybe this is just meant to be so I went to go and have a look, had a test drive and I bought it pretty much on the spot.  So, you know, and that’s enabled me to go out and do things, you know, when I was off last year, you know, I was able to do small trips and it just kind of gave me a bit more of a purpose to do things and some, you know, and I talked about my dog Molly earlier, I was in the middle of adopting her so actually one of the things that was going through my mind sitting on that couch being told I had cancer was what do I do about Molly?  Because, you know, I was thinking am I going to be in a position to have a dog?  I didn’t know what my recovery was going to be and obviously having a dog when you’re trying to recover from major surgery isn’t the best and I live alone so it’s not like anyone else was here, you know, to be able to help so – but my parents said, “No, don’t be so stupid, of course we’re going to help out,” and my friends said they’ll help out as well so, you know, having Molly, you know, she gave me a reason to keep going as well and, you know, she was there, you know, she needed me as much as I needed her really at the time.  So I had the – got the camper van the day before the surgery and I got Molly a week after.  So it was all, yeah, the three Cs is what I kind of say.

Kathryn:       All meant to be.

Emma:        Camper van, cocker spaniel and cancer.

Kathryn:       Absolutely.  You’ve had the three Cs, no more Cs.  There we go.

Emma:        Absolutely, yeah.  No more Cs, no, definitely not, not unless it’s something like a Caribbean holiday or something.  That would be rather nice, especially given what we’re going through at the moment.

Kathryn:       Absolutely.

Emma:        But, you know, I’m still undergoing treatment, you know, it’s not over, I’ve got to have a mammogram every year and because of the pandemic, my mammogram appointment was delayed by three months.

Kathryn:       Right.

Emma:        So, you know, I have been affected by that and that was another sort of worry in case it threw up something, you know, and then I would be months behind and I mentioned my, you know, my cancer support group earlier, you know, a lot of the ladies that I know through that actually, they’ve had their treatment affected as well and some of them unfortunately, you know, they’re still going through really, really difficult periods of treatment.  So that’s not been great and I have still got well eight and a half years’ worth of treatment going forward because the cancer that I had effectively is boosted by hormones so I need to have a drug called Tamoxifen which I’m on, you know, it was prescribed to me for 10 years.  So I’ve got to have that every day and touch wood, you know, I’m not experiencing any major side effects.  I did have some side effects when I first started to take it but I think that was my body just getting used to it but my joints really seized up, I could barely walk for two days but other people have had far more severe effects and long-term effects as well so I’m just hoping that, you know, that doesn’t really affect me going forward.  So – but yeah, it’s just something, you know, it’s not something that you can just kind of put in a box and go, “Forget about it.”  It is there but I do count myself lucky that it wasn’t a hell of a lot worse that’s for sure, because a lot of people, you know, have far worse experiences than I have.

Kathryn:       Of course.  No, no, I know what you mean.  It’s really hard isn’t it to sort of like – ‘cos I understand what you’re saying about, you know, in a sense you feel lucky but at the same point like you said as well, you’re not lucky and it’s a very, very difficult one as well because I imagine as well you see so many things from other people that you must look and think, “Wow, my situation is quite lucky compared to that person, what they’re going through.”

Emma:        Yeah it is and – sorry I was just going to say, you know, and it is just that – it is that financial security but it is also, you know, I’m now without further protection if that makes sense.

Kathryn:       Yeah.

Emma:        You know, I’ve had my pay-outs and, you know, I’m certainly not sitting here on millions that’s for sure, you know, you always think with a bit of advice, “Oh, what if I just doubled my cover?”  You know?  But you didn’t, you know, but as I said, you know, I’m single so I’ve got to be self-reliant so a lot of that money has been put aside just because you just don’t know and certainly as I say, waiting for those extra tests and every year when I have this mammogram, you just think, “Well what if that happens again?”  Or if something else happens, you know, what if I have a stroke or other serious illness?  You just don’t know but, you know, as it is at the moment, you know, I’m not in a position of being able to just top up my cover, I can’t do that.

Kathryn:       I know you said as well that – previously when we chatted, that you’ve said that sometimes the way that people can say things can be really quite difficult to hear and I know there’s quite a lot of contention – because, you know, we see some things on social media saying, you know, it would be something like #cancersurvivor or #warrior and stuff like that and I think it’s possibly one of those situations where some people – some people I think in a sense like that in some ways, you know, they’re kind of like, “I am a cancer survivor,” but then you can also find that just as equally – just as many people can go, “Hang on a minute, don’t call me a warrior.  Don’t call me a survivor, this isn’t a battle that I chose and it’s an insult to anybody who hasn’t survived because that’s – how can you say they’ve not fought?” in a sense.  And I know you do have some specific sort of like examples as well so is there anything that kind of stands out to you?  I know, again you’re one and other people will be different to you but what kind of things sort of like stand out that you think, “You know what, just – even if you’re trying to say it in the nicest possible way, just don’t say that.”  Yeah?

Emma:        So I mean I think the whole cancer warrior survivor thing is actually quite a difficult one because that really is down to personal preference.  I mean, I don’t have a problem with that at all.  I mean, one easy example to kind of give is, I’m sure many of you will be aware that in a lot of hospitals, on the cancer wards, there’s a bell, you know, and once somebody is given the all-clear, they ring a bell.  Now, a lot of people obviously like that, you know, they like that sense of, you know, “My treatment has been completed, I’m finally leaving this hospital, I can go home to my loved ones.”  For a lot of people though, they have a real problem with that bell because there are a lot of people that will never, ever recover from their cancer and they will never leave that hospital bed and for them, they just feel, “It’s rubbing my nose in it.”

Kathryn:       Okay.

Emma:        So it’s really difficult and I would never have known that before all of this happened to me so it’s really difficult sometimes to know what to say when it comes to something that’s really black and white but what I have experienced – so just trying to get travel insurance, you know, that’s, you know, again, another reason why you’ve got to put money aside because things now cost more so my travel insurance is now a lot more than it ever used to be because of, you know, I’m seen as an obviously much higher risk which is kind of debatable.

But anyway, that’s another story but, you know, just calling up a specialist travel insurer that helps people who have had illnesses get cover, so they are used to talking to people with illnesses all the time, like we would be when we’re doing applications or helping claimants, but it’s just that, you know, you’re going through a form and, you know, “What’s your health issue?”  “Oh, you know, breast cancer.”  “Oh, that’s okay,” and it’s just that little thing of, I know nothing was meant by that but ultimately it’s not really okay and you would just expect somebody to at the very least say, “Oh I’m really sorry to hear that but, you know, all being well, we’re going to be able to help you.”  That’s kind of that – so just that kind of acknowledgement and I know it wasn’t any – nobody was meaning anything by it.  Ultimately their brain was just in work mode in terms of, “Yeah, that’s okay, I know we can cover people with breast cancer or who have had breast cancer.”

And it’s the same thing with us in our industry, you know, I’ve heard advisers for example going through the family history question and they’re asking it and the person has said, “Oh my father passed away at 67 from a heart attack.”  “Oh that’s okay.”  No it isn’t okay, that person’s lost their father, you know, “I’m sorry to hear that,” is really what you should be saying to them.

Kathryn:       Absolutely.

Emma:        Or, “Thank you ever so much for sharing that with me.”  But again, nothing’s meant by it, it’s just work mode.  “Oh that’s okay because it’s 67, not before the age of 65.”

Kathryn:       Yeah.

Emma:        So it’s just a question of just being mindful that you’re not just going through a process, going through the motions.  This is a person sharing something quite personal and potentially upsetting to them.

Kathryn:       Yes.

Emma:        So just, as I say, just acknowledge it.  Think about the words that you use because, you know, as I’ve said on previous sessions, you know, people don’t necessarily remember what you say to them but they certainly do remember how you make them feel so, you know, that’s just something that, you know, always resonates with me and it is so true.  So yeah, just think when you’re talking to your clients because we do have to have difficult conversations, that’s the nature of the industry that we’re in.  We can’t avoid them, this is what we do.  So, you know, just try and be prepared and think what you’re going to say.

Kathryn:       Absolutely, I think that’s a really good point, thank you.  Well I have a case study to provide for the advisers and then we can obviously have a little bit of a chat about what you’re doing at British Friendly and hear all the sort of like latest gossip and stuff maybe, if you can share things?  But in regards to a case study, I really wanted to share this one because I know that from an adviser point of view, there’s a lot of stuff in the industry at the moment obviously about insurers in a sense reducing their risk appetite with the corona virus and there are certain conditions that I think, you know, we can all say that, you know, the insurers are not necessarily targeting certain conditions, they’re reducing their sort of like – well they’re being more cautious, heightened cautiousness for everybody but there are certain conditions that are causing people to have more concern because of corona virus and, you know, there’s certain things like having a high BMI, high blood pressure, diabetes and also things like cancer sometimes causing a bit of concern.

But what I wanted to do is give an example of somebody who’s had cancer that we were able to provide protection insurance or life insurance for last month.  So it was a woman in her 40s and three years before speaking to us she had had stage one, grade two breast cancer and we knew that the cancer itself had been more than one centimetre in size.  She’d had a lumpectomy and there were – had been no lymph node involvements and there had been no spread to any other areas and with this one, just to say, a really quick example, so for her to cover the mortgage it was level life insurance of £100,000 over 20 years and that was about £33 per month and I just wanted to put that out there for advisers to hear just to sort of like go – I know there’s that caution at the moment and I know sometimes people are unsure as to what can and can’t be available for people but just – even if you are speaking to a client, even if you do hear cancer and you’re thinking, “Well hang on a minute, everything’s got stricter now,” it doesn’t necessarily mean that things are a no.  It just means that there maybe needs to be a slightly different research.  It may be that it’s insurers that – it could be insurers that you have on your panel, it may be people off your panel and in that case it’s a good idea to try and signpost to a company that you can trust and know will look after your client.

But getting back to you then, Emma, you have been with British Friendly for about two years now.  What’s it been like because I have to say, you’ve kind of turned on us haven’t you as advisers, you’ve gone from an adviser to insurer.  You’ve gone to the other side.

Emma:        The dark side as some people have said, yes.  I mean, I have – so, you know, yeah, October I’ll be celebrating two years at British Friendly but obviously it’s been a rather disjointed two years because – I mean, you know, I’ve pretty much now worked just over half of that but yeah, you know, I was off for a long period of time but I mean I, you know, it’s been great for me working for an income protection specialist, you know, for years I’ve been an advocate and campaigner for IP and I still am and I would still say in terms of, you know, your hierarchy of needs, that income protection is probably the product that most people should be taking out.  I appreciate obviously that, you know, there will be some people that do have sick pay in place but how long is that going to last them?  And as I touched on earlier, you know, people’s job situations can change, you know, we’re going to see people unfortunately losing their jobs because of this crisis.  We’re going to see people, you know, as they have been, moving from the employed market into the self-employed market, you know, contract workers and, you know, if they had only been relying on group schemes – by the time they actually then need to take out cover for themselves, they might have had a change in their health which might prevent them from doing so.

So it’s difficult to try and persuade somebody to try and double up but I would certainly – if they can, at the very least – even if it’s just a little bit so they’ve got something in place if something should be taken away from them when it comes to employee benefits.  It’s a difficult conversation but, you know, ‘cos we know how difficult it is to get people to understand the value of protection and actually pay for it but, you know, if somebody can do that then, you know, I think they should.  And I think, you know, as much as – and I said, I’m still a huge, huge advocate of IP, you know, my job at British Friendly is to try and boost the already award-winning proposition that we’ve got.  I am really conscious about the added cost of being sick and that’s not really what IP is designed to cover because obviously you’re covering to replace your salary but you’re not then covering the added costs that you might have to face.  So just an example from me, one of the added costs that I had while I was recovering which I would have had no idea to expect was having to go to the hairdresser to get my hair washed.  You know, for weeks and weeks and weeks, I wasn’t able to go in a shower –

Kathryn:       Right.

Emma:        Because, you know, I couldn’t get anything wet.

Kathryn:       Of course.

Emma:        So I had to go to the hairdressers twice a week just to get my hair washed and I couldn’t bend over a bath or a sink to do it myself just because of obviously my injuries so, you know, that was an added cost which, you know, fortunately I was fine to pay.  I was okay and I was in a position to pay but a lot of people who are really, really, you know, struggling financially, they would have found that really tough to do.

Kathryn:       Yeah.

Emma:        Another cost that I had immediately was – I had to buy surgical bras and they are not cheap, you know, a post-surgery bra, you know – I was looking at £50 – £50, £60 each so, you know, that’s a lot of money for some people to find.

Kathryn:       Yeah.

Emma:        So for me, absolutely yeah I still think IP is the top of that hierarchy of needs but critical illness does obviously help people to find money for those extra costs so even if somebody can’t afford obviously, you know, the full amount to pay their mortgage off or whatever it is, you know, even if they can just take out £20,000, even £10,000, you know, just something small that would give them a little lump sum that would just help them with those added costs that they might have to face, whether that be for their own health, whether that be to help somebody look after them or they might have to – the taxi costs that people have.

I mean, again, I mean I’ve mentioned the word lucky a number of times but, you know, those of us who have had cancer, compared to some other conditions, are a little bit more lucky in some ways because everyone knows about cancer and when it comes to things like hospital parking, you know, I didn’t have to pay for hospital parking because I was, you know, going to get cancer treatment.  If I had been seriously ill with another type of treatment that I’d have to be going back to the hospital with, that doesn’t count.  You know, it’s not seen in the same way.  So there are a lot of people with really serious illnesses that will be facing costs that actually for some people with cancer they don’t have.  So it’s – yeah, it’s a tricky one to try and balance but really, you know, look at all the options available, you know, don’t just look at the maximum, think about how you can fit something within a budget because absolutely something is going to be better than nothing at all, you know, and as you’ll know Kathryn, you know, you do this all the time and if you’re not a specialist adviser, you know, seek out a partnership, seek out somebody that can help you to make sure that your clients can walk away, you know, with that safety net in place that can hopefully be topped up at a later date but at least they’ll be hopefully walking away with something, you know, now that will give them, you know, give them some level of protection.

Kathryn:       Absolutely.  I think it’s – again, something you said there really stands out.  So I was playing about with some risk calculators over the weekend, as you do, and I did one and it was saying something like – so I’m 35, a non-smoker and it was just a really quite simple sort of like risk calculator which basically said based upon statistics and data and everything, you know, that you’re a woman, you’re 35, you’re a non-smoker, that I’ve got 5% of chance dying in a sense, you know, sort of unexpectedly but I’ve got a 41% chance of being unable to work for more than two months and I mean that’s a massive difference, you know, it’s a huge difference and I don’t know if we necessarily hit home to people as much, you know, especially with income protection – I know income protection is getting quite a bit of a surge I think at the moment of people wanting it.  As advisers I’m sure other ones are having the same as me, we’re having that kind of awkward conversation with some clients because they’re coming and going, “Well I want it to protect me if I’m made redundant.”  And it’s a case of, “Well no, that’s not what it does.”  And then people are like, “I don’t understand why it doesn’t do that because it’s protecting my income, it’s called income protection.”  And there’s kind of like that complexity of, you know, obviously from inside the industry we know exactly what that means but, you know, I think it’s quite hard sometimes, you’ve got people coming and they’re so positive and then you’re saying to them, “Well actually it’s not going to do what you want,” and they kind of go, “Oh.”  And so they suddenly go a bit negative but you’re going, “But it’s still really, really good and you should look at it for this reason –”

Emma:        Yeah.

Kathryn:       And there’s this kind of wave of emotions of trying to get it but I think that was really, really important sort of like to just say and yes, you’re right, absolutely to hit home how important income protection is and I think, you know, with corona virus and everything and people – especially people who are getting the long Covid symptoms it’s, you know, this is a time where, you know, obviously without going into the part of sort of like really scaring people into getting it clearly, you know, there’s a very strict line that we need to have there.  It is just the perfect time to kind of say, you know, “This is why this insurance is so important.”

Emma:        Yeah, just don’t leave it until too late.  I mean, one of my friends who I recommend my friends and family to, you know, she’s had one or two clients that she’s been trying to get to, you know, she’s advised them and they’ve been, “Oh, I’ll think about it, I’ll think about it” or, “I’ll just wait until that happens, I’ll wait until that happens,” and then unfortunately something then does happen to their health and then they’re not able to get the cover that she was trying to get them to take out six months before and that’s just really sad, you know, we’re all guilty of putting stuff off.  Particularly things that we don’t want to do.  We don’t want to be paying money –

Kathryn:       No.

Emma:        You know, for protection and we don’t want to ever have to claim on it and that’s the sad thing but, you know, that’s why it’s important to be talking about all the added value services that many insurers provide, you know, at British Friendly we’ve got a big suite of products, you know, to provide all those extra things.  I mean I’ve talked about the second medical opinion and, you know, I did use the Best Doctors service because I had my AIG cover but, you know, we use Square Health and they have a second medical opinion service and there’s lots of different insurers that offer these fabulous things that go alongside all the products that we sell whether it be virtual GP services.  I mean counselling, when you think about all the difficulties that people are facing, you know, mental health-wise at the moment, you know, those services are so important and then there’s the nice things to have, you know, which some insurers, you know, like we offer, you know, your retail discounts and other kind of rewards for having cover in place so it’s trying to get people to understand how the policies that we sell can help them day to day, week to week, not just when tragedy strikes.  And hopefully through that we can get people to understand more about the value, you know, because we want to be providing good value cover and these added value services are doing just that and I think, going forward, we perhaps just need to make more of them, particularly given the challenges that we’re all facing with the pandemic but also just making sure that we’re doing as much as we can and that is insurers and advisers alike to make sure that clients understand what they’ve bought, what they can claim on and what they can use –

Kathryn:       Absolutely.

Emma:        Because sometimes we’re not always the best at doing that.  We’ve definitely got so much better in the last few years, that’s for sure as a collective industry but all of us have got a key responsibility to make sure that customers understand it so they can keep cover in place and keep reviewing it as well.  That’s the other thing, you know, make sure that as advisers we’re helping clients to review their cover regularly, as insurers we’re helping advisers to do that, that we’re creating flexible products that can move with peoples’ change in circumstances.  There’s a whole lot of things that we’ve all got to build on and I’m not saying everything’s perfect, that’s for sure, but it’s definitely important and, you know, if I hadn’t reviewed my cover I certainly would have – not massively struggled but it certainly wouldn’t have given me the peace of mind that I had and, you know, I was lucky that both my critical illness policies paid out and my experience with both of them was, you know, overall good.  You know, I spoke to some really, you know, caring, understanding people which made a huge difference to me and particularly my PMI Vitality claim, you know, that was great because I had a dedicated claims manager that I would speak to regularly because obviously to them – and they are still paying out for me because I’m still obviously having treatment, you know, that made a world of difference actually having that support.  So, you know, it’s been good in a way.  I say it’s been good in a way, obviously I would have preferred not to be in this position but after years of, you know, promoting the value of protection, it’s been a helpful – I say helpful rather than good –

Kathryn:       Yeah.

Emma:        To be on the other side of the fence and be on the receiving end and understand what works.  I have, you know, it wasn’t all perfect with all three insurers.  There definitely were a few things so that’s helped me learn.  I’ve obviously fed back to them, you know, in my professional capacity so that they can kind of, you know, they knew where things weren’t quite right.  But overall, you know, it was a good experience, it was a good test and yeah it’s, you know, certainly just made me more passionate for the good work that we do.  That’s for sure.

Kathryn:       Brilliant.  That’s fantastic and I think sort of like a really good time for us to sort of start to bring the podcast to a close.  So you are involved in our truth or lie feature, Emma.  So what we’re going to be doing everybody is talking about what our favourite TV show was as a child.  So I will go first, give Emma a chance to have a little think.  So mine was Count Duckula.  Loved him.

Emma:        I – oh goodness me, I had quite a few to be perfectly honest but I think I’m going to probably go with Mysterious Cities of Gold.

Kathryn:       Don’t know if I’ve ever seen that.  Obviously, I’m going to have find that one, going to have to go find it now.  Fantastic.

Emma:        Well you see, you are lucky enough to be a few years younger than me so maybe that’s why it wasn’t quite on your radar but yes, it was – yeah, there were just so many but I’ll pick that one.

Kathryn:       There were a lot of shows.

Emma:        I definitely remember watching that one, that’s for sure.

Kathryn:       Thank you so much.

Emma:        It’s okay.  Thank you ever so much Kathryn, it’s been really good.

Kathryn:       Thank you.  Well obviously as well thank you Emma, thank you everybody for listening.  It’s been really, really good and informative to just hear all those different things about how, you know, the fact that, you know, there’s that kind of process of it’s the next hurdle, what actually radiotherapy is like, you know, I had no idea about the tattoos and things like that.  That’s something that’s completely –

Emma:        It was a bit of a shock, they didn’t prepare for me to say, you know, it was just like “Oh we need to tattoo you now.”  I was like, “What?  Tattoos?”

Kathryn:       You see, I’m just thinking of my tattoo artist actually coming up out of the corner with his long hair, covered in tattoos and just goes, “Right, here you go.”  I’m sure it wasn’t like that.

Emma:        But it is, you know, it is – yeah, I mean, it’s just so many things that you’ve just got to think that you wouldn’t have had to do.  I mean I haven’t actually touched on the fact that I then had to have other surgery to kind of even me up, you know, it was just that that I hadn’t even thought about and then, you know, it is – my scars do hurt regularly.  They itch, you know, it’s just those things that you’ve just got to live with but as I said, you know, overall, I, you know, am very grateful for my experience and I said I have had a brilliant surgeon and that just goes to show how important being in the right hands, you know, is.  I wish I could say the same for my oncologist but that’s another story.  Luckily I only have to see him once a year!

Kathryn:       That’s a completely separate podcast isn’t it, that one?

Emma:        I know but it’s –

Kathryn:       That’s just 50 minutes of letting you to talk –

Emma:        But actually with him it’s a class example of what we were saying about the importance of what you say and he has no empathy and he’s absolutely just a clinician.

Kathryn:       Right.

Emma:        He will just come out with stuff without actually thinking about the impact it could have on you.  There is just no sense of kind of sympathy or what you could be going through at all and as a result, you know, unfortunately he’s just not necessarily the right person to do that job.

Kathryn:       Yeah.

Emma:        But I’m sure he’s brilliant in terms of actually the scientific side of things but it just goes to show the importance of how you say things and what you say as well as obviously what you know.  But as I said, you know, overall I have been – I have been lucky, I will use that word again.  I have been lucky, you know, and also – I actually would like to take this opportunity just to say, I have been also super, super lucky with the amount of people – the amount of family, friends, colleagues, you know, industry that have given me so much support which has just been amazing and I know that, you know, I’m not the only one in our industry that has gone through some really tough times recently.

Kathryn:       Yeah.

Emma:        There are quite a few of us.

Kathryn:       Yeah.

Emma:        You know, and that – it’s awful but, you know, it’s going to happen isn’t it?  We’re here, you know, as I said, walking testament for the value of the work that we do.  So we just need to try and help more consumers have that peace of mind in place.

Kathryn:       Absolutely.  You’re completely right Emma.  I am going to be back in two weeks’ time but I may be back with a little surprise inbetweeny-sode, a little extra episode next week possibly so everybody watch this space.  So if you’d like a reminder of that, please do drop me a message on social media or visit the website www.practical-protection.co.uk and don’t forget that if you have listened, you can claim a CPD certificate on the website too.  So again, thank you so much Emma.

Emma:        Thank you.

Kathryn:       Bye.

Emma:        Bye.

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