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Wyenot News - The weekly News Magazine for Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire
Issue No. 124 - 6th December 2006
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'Quote me happy' . . . you must be 'aving a laugh!

This is a bit of a long story so I have used the whole of page two of this week's news to cover it. It needs to be in two parts because without full knowledge of the nature of the problem, the 'quote me happy' part will not make sense but if you ever feel the need to insure something or somebody, it is a story well worth bearing in mind.

Quote me happy part one:
My son, Matt has Hodgkin's Lymphoma which is a cancer of the lymph system. He had been feeling ill for nine months prior to the true nature of his illness being diagnosed. In fact it was misdiagnosed by a doctor in Ross, whom I shall not name at present because I intend to take the matter further, if and when Matt's illness goes into remission and most definitely if it does not.

Continued . . .

Matt at the Prince of Wales in October. Ref: DSC_7415

.In October 2005 Matt went to the doctor complaining of pains and was told that he had 'an infection'. He was given antibiotics. Whilst on the antibiotics he stopped drinking alcohol (not that he drank much anyway) and the pain went away. A few weeks later it came back. He returned to the doctor and was given more antibiotics. He stopped drinking any alcohol and the pain went away again. I think you can probably see the picture here. This went on for months and months, just like one of those jokes beginning, 'a man went to the doctor . . . or a little old lady got on a train . . .'

Pain after drinking alcohol is a symptom of cancer in the lymph system, although we only know that now with hindsight. The antibiotics themselves made Matt very sick. He spent months of nights talking to God on the porcelain telephone and getting hardly any sleep. When he was in bed, his sheets became wringing wet every night due to heavy sweating; something that we now also know is a symptom of lymph cancer. I used to see him at work when I went shopping in Morrisons and his long hair would be soaking wet whilst he just seemed to plod around slowly, looking tired. I used to nag him jokingly as parents do, 'You don't know the meaning of the word, work'.

In June, after months of being treated for an 'infection' , the doctor finally began to realize that the problem was possibly more than an infection and an appointment with a consultant was arranged, though this was just as a 'precaution' and he was still treated the same way, with antibiotics. (Even I know that one should not be given antibiotics for this length of time.) At the appointment with the consultant, Matt mentioned a lump which had appeared in his neck and the consultant just laughed, taking no interest in this whatsoever. We were not given any immediate information following this appointment other that they had arranged for Matt to see the General Medicine department at Hereford Hospital for a scan on 5th September. This appointment was three months away at the time, so we assumed there was nothing seriously wrong.

Time was ticking by and by the end of June Matt was beginning to feel really rough so he decided to take a break from his work as he was having trouble with the physical aspects of working in the supermarket and needed to take a holiday. He booked a trip to Amsterdam and after badgering the hospital, the appointment was brought forward for this reason. Not through any urgency on the part of the hospital.

On either the 3rd or 4th July (this time is important), we cannot remember exactly which but it was definitely one of those two days. Matt was summoned to the doctor's surgery in Ross and I went with him because he was worried due to the urgent nature of the phone call he received. We both knew as soon as we saw the doctor's face that something was wrong and when we sat down, we were told that what Matt had was possibly a 'lymphoma' - cancer of the lymph system.

A hospital appointment was made for Matt two days later and he was given a scan. We were shoved to the front of the queue of people waiting and we were given an immediate result from this test. It showed that Matt not only did have a lymphoma but that it had formed secondaries. The cancer had spread from his stomach and was now in his chest and his neck. Without even going home to get prepared, Matt had the first of two operations that day. By now we were in the very capable hands of a Doctor Ransford, who knew what he was talking about and what he was doing. The first operation was on Matt's neck, to remove tissue for biopsy but unfortunately this was unsuccessful as the tissue removed was already dead so the following week he had to undergo a further, very painful operation on his stomach. This was successful and the exact type of cancer could be determined as a result. This was important as it was to determine the type of treatment necessary.

On 25th July, we were told that Matt had Hodgkin's lymphoma. On 27th July a chemotherapy programme was discussed. Matt had bone marrow samples taken on 3rd August and his course of chemotherapy began on 9th August.

Continued . . .

A place in Cheltenham where Matt and I sit and talk about life whilst waiting for his chemo phone call. Ref: PB280017.

Quote me happy part two:
In May 2006, Matt, an ordinary person with no known serious illness and whose only visits to the doctor were for something which had been diagnosed as a minor infection needed some money to learn how to drive and buy a computer so he went to the bank for a loan of £5,000. At the time his illness could have been a plain stomach ache, an ear ache or a tooth ache - anything. Certainly it was nothing one would seriously worry about or think of as being possibly life threatening. It was just one of life's irritations as is catching the flu or a cold - that's all.

'No problem,' said the bank. And you'll be needing a loan protector insurance from CGU Insurance plc trading as Norwich Union to go with that, they persuaded him. It's only eight hundred quid for the premium and will cover you in case you get ill and cannot work while you're making the repayments.

Matt left the bank a happy chappie and started planning his driving lessons and how he was going to use his new computer. Little did he know that three months later all of his plans would turn sour. That he would have to undergo two nasty operations, a horrible bone marrow extraction and eight months of chemotherapy. He had no idea that he would be unable to work for the foreseeable future as the chemo, although it might cure his illness, would make him very sick, give him insomnia, make him feel constantly tired and kill off his immune system so that even a common cold requires treatment.

'Oh dear', thought Matt. 'Still not all is lost, I'll just have to sign on for income support and when that starts I will be able to claim on my loan protector insurance from CGU Insurance plc trading as Norwich Union. That eight hundred quid I paid was well worth it'. What he did not realize was that the Job Centre would lose his application form for income support and that it would be three months before he would receive any benefit, and more to the point, before he could fill in the Norwich Union claim form to help with his bank loan repayments. In the mean time, three months with no income had eaten into his loan, £600 of which had been used just to make three of the repayments.

What he also did not realize was that his doctor would charge him £34 from his newly acquired £45.50 per week income support to fill in the claim form and that because Matt had seen the doctor before he took the bank loan, even through that doctor had sent him home at the time, telling him that he had nothing more than a minor irritation, Norwich Union would use the cunningly worded small print in the insurance contract to say that he was unable to claim as he had 'seen the doctor about his illness'. The fact that the illness had been misdiagnosed as something trivial made no difference - Matt had seen the doctor.

The bank fully understand Matt's problem and phoned the insurance people to ask them to re-examine his case as his illness had been misdiagnosed. They fully realize that Matt was unaware of his cancer when he took the loan and, although we have not yet resolved the matter, they are being as helpful as they can about the situation. I think that the Norwich Union's literal translation of the small print however is immoral. When Matt filled in the claim form, he also sent a letter explaining that, although he was seeing the doctor when he took the loan, he had no idea that he had anything at all serious wrong with him.

The insurance company employee who telephoned Matt to tell him his claim had been declined even said that he was aware of the situation, that the true nature of Matt's illness was not known about at the time he took the loan and protector insurance but he had seen the doctor and that small print is small print and must be obeyed. Matt had seen the doctor so the small print had to be adhered to, regardless of how immoral it was.

'Quote me happy'. You must be 'aving a laugh!

Part three: on the positive side:
Matt had a scan a month ago which showed that his tumours have become a little smaller. The sweating has ceased and he can now drink a little beer, other than immediately after a dose of chemotherapy but he still needs a further three months of treatment before the next test. Matt is a strong lad and although it is getting thin, he is hanging on to his hair like his life depends on it. He still goes out during the evening with his mates. Going to Cheltenham every other Tuesday is a pain in some ways as it often means a twelve hour day but it has given us the opportunity to spend a lot of time together. In between his early morning blood test and waiting for the phone call to say his chemo is ready, we have eaten in just about every hamburger joint in the city, looked in the window of every shop and have learned the location of every park bench.

Matt will eventually make a full recovery - of this I am still absolutely certain and one day we'll go to Cheltenham purely for reasons of nostalgia!

Continued . . .

This letter of confirmation arrived on Tuesday, 5th December, after the above article was written.

Note added since the above letter was received:

The way I see it, the above clause reads that due to his illness, no matter what, Matt can never, ever claim on that insurance policy.

This means that Norwich Union were never at risk from the word 'go' as Matt could never make a claim, either from the very beginning or at any time in the future. Norwich Union should therefore at least refund the 800 quid that Matt has paid out for something he can never benefit from.

When Matt asked for his money back on the telephone, the man from Norwich Union said, 'It doesn't work like that'.

Never trust an insurance company! I should know, I worked for one for 30 years!

If Norwich Union is anything like the insurance company I worked for, Matt's 800 quid will be put to good use. It will go towards some poor sod of an office clerk being sent on a poncy 'Team Building' course that he does not want to attend, where he will have to stay in a posh hotel and figure out how to make a bivouac using nothing more than half a dozen stapling machines, eight Lego bricks, four biros and a metre and a half of used string. How exciting it used to be, when that last stapling machine fell into place and you just knew you had built a house which would sleep six men comfortably in Antarctic blizzard conditions!

Important: This is just not the usual 'click to get it out of the way' thing.
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They must not be ignored!

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