Ray Heylen, Liberty MD for Execution & Adviser Experience, shares his personal journey with prostate cancer.
How long has Liberty been a part of your life?
I’ve been at Liberty for 37 years. In 1981, I started working as a New Business Clerk in Durban where we used to see and talk to Donald Gordon, the pioneer who founded Liberty. I spent 13 years in Durban, then I moved to Johannesburg as part of Liberty’s career development plan. I met my wife of 31 years at Liberty and have a 24-year-old daughter, so I guess you can say my family is part of the Liberty family.
How did you find out about your prostate cancer diagnosis?
I wasn’t sick and it came 10 years too early. I went for my annual executive medical tests. The doctor wasn’t happy with the physical prostrate examination and referred me to the urologist. A blood test, scans, sonars, an MRI and biopsies were all part of the urologist’s process to determine malignancy.
We then discussed various treatment options based on worldwide research studies and trends from the experiences of 2 000 urologists. Once we agreed on a treatment plan, I was referred to an oncologist with whom I discussed the treatment I’d selected in more detail, including all possible side-effects, treatment time periods and hospitals where treatment could be undertaken.
Personally, I decided not to worry about the possible side-effects. My attitude was to wait and see what happens and deal with it at that stage. It was part of the strategy that I had to remain 100% positive throughout the treatment phase.
How did you take the news?
When someone is sitting across the desk from you and tells you that you have cancer, it does something to you. You start to think, why me? I raced a bicycle for many years, have a good diet and I’m healthy. These negative thoughts can lead you down a dark path and, coupled with the side effects of radiation, make everything seem worse – so don’t go down that path. Accept what’s happened and leave it to the medical specialists.
Tell us more about the treatments you underwent.
The treatment plan was brachytherapy (internal radiation) and external radiation therapy. This type of treatment is expensive, but well covered by a good medical aid and insurance products. A specialist can charge 300% of medical aid rates.
How did you manage with the medical bills?
I didn’t flinch as I had a good medical aid and had Liberty’s Living Lifestyle product. Lying in a hospital bed made me understand what “At Liberty, we make financial freedom possible” means. I’d paid my premium every month for my “one day” and I now had my “one day”. The purpose of the claim payment was to pay for the best doctors to fix me, and that’s what it was used it for because that’s when you’re most vulnerable. My “one day” was a reality, and I had financial freedom.
The last thing anyone wants is to lie in hospital and worry about how to afford the treatment. I chose the best hospitals and I was treated with the greatest of respect by those looking after me. The nurses and the doctors became my friends as I went for my daily radiation treatments. On completion of the radiation treatment, some of the Living Lifestyle claim money was used to buy the hospital staff a little gift to thank them for getting me through this.
How do you feel when you look back at your experience?
I was lucky because I had a positive attitude, love and support from my family and financial backing from Liberty. I’m fortunate that today I can tell this story and help others to ensure that they have regular medical check-ups – regardless of their age. I appreciate the support I received from Liberty’s management and my colleagues.
My story resulted in approximately 20 male work colleagues and friends going for a PSA test. A colleague has subsequently had his prostrate removed. I’ll keep telling this story to as many people as possible so that they can understand the value of Dread Disease Cover and the financial freedom that it affords you when you have that unexpected “one day”.
What advice do you have for our readers?
The first thing is that you don’t know what’s happening inside your body, so it’s important to have regular check-ups. Thinking “it won’t happen to me” is unwise. A positive attitude probably accounts for 50% of the recovery process. Remain positive and tackle the challenges head on.
Finally, you need to ensure that you have the right cover or products in place to help you manage financially in the event of your “one day”. Getting professional financial advice is a non-negotiable.
Do you have any closing thoughts?
Johan Minnie, Head of Sales at Liberty, talks about financial advisers being in the “greatest profession”. When a financial adviser has given advice and the correct cover is in place, then a claim is paid to a policyholder or beneficiary who experiences their “one day”, you realise that this really is the greatest profession.
Remember that once you’ve told your family of your diagnosis, the next person you’ll call is your financial adviser. This gives you an idea of the level of importance they play in our lives. So find a financial adviser who you can trust, build a customer relationship, take the financial advice and get the right level of dread disease or other identified cover in place. It doesn’t matter how young or old you are, get the cover now because you never know when you’ll need it. And when you have your one day, you’ll want additional cover – which, unfortunately, isn’t always possible to get.