I am a Stage 3 Cancer Survivor with a newborn. My story isn’t important, but my experience could be invaluable to you [Part 1 of 2]

Posted 8 February, 2018 by Clearly
in Real Lives, Real Stories


Mark reached out to us with a most extraordinary tale – both sobering and quietly defiant at the same time.

In lieu of an introduction, there were two simple statements.


I recently was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer, and went through surgery and radiotherapy. Would it be possible for me to share my insights on insurance plans, based on my experience?


It was incredibly calm for a person who just faced a brush with death. And even more incredibly, he wanted the focus to be how to help others through his personal experience, as opposed to just narrating yet another “sob story”.

And so I met him. He stood there tall and strapping, with a firm handshake. I would have pegged him for a fitness instructor had I met him in a gym.

Why would a person with such a traumatizing experience be willing to reach out and have his story told?  Mark made it abundantly clear that his journey wasn’t unique – but he had the knowledge and experience of actually buying and claiming on his own insurance policies.


I want to share about that – so others can benefit as well.


(He isn’t from the Insurance industry or has any financial interest in contributing towards the article)


And so over coffee, I spent the better half of the afternoon getting to understand his journey, and also to uncover his unique insights about insurance. It made all the difference in his case.

The first article covers his story and how cancer has the ability to sneak up on anyone. The second article presents his own take on how to maximize your protection when it comes to Integrated Shield Plans.

It is a humbling experience to say the least – even for industry practitioners such as myself. Here is his tale.


Fatherhood was the first thing on my mind. Cancer was the last.


It is probably the oldest cliche in the book. Things happen unexpectedly, that is. Except that no one really believes that it applies to ourselves.

I belonged to that camp, 6 months ago. Amazing how everything can turn topsy-turvey in half a year.

Sarah was due anytime, and I was already happily preparing for fatherhood. There were the youtube videos, the parenting classes, and even peer advice. (“Prepare to give up sleep for the first couple of years!”)

Then came a dull ache on my left thigh. I chalked it up to some residual effect due to my renewed efforts at exercise. It didn’t abate after a few days, and I decided to check myself in for a scan.

There, at the corner of the image, where my tailbone was barely visible, was a suspicious mass. It was identified to be a tumor and I had to undergo a biopsy (a close examination of tissue cells) to determine the nature of the tumour.


Tumour pic


3 days after my child came into the world, the biopsy results came back.

It was cancer, stage 3.


Two Life changing events within a week




Elation was replaced with shock. I was in my early thirties, had no family history, and in good health. Why me? Why now?

There was no time for reflection. While I would have loved to have been with my newborn child and wife during this precious time, it was important to remove the cancer as soon as possible.

I reluctantly scheduled my surgery the following week.


Surgery – and the aftermath


The surgery lasted about 10 hours, and went fairly smoothly.  Given the major operation (I was split open, from the stomach and all the way down to the base of the spine), I was placed in the ICU right after for close monitoring. Those were days full of pain and uncertainty.

I hated the numerous tubes stuck into me. The pain in my tailbone and various stiches was intense from the surgery. The worse was the explosion of pain each time I coughed from the phlegm build up. Taken together with the constant hustle and bustle of the ICU, it made sleep and rest difficult.  I wondered if I would ever get better.


Then they moved me to the High Dependency Unit. It was marginally better. Marginally.


Five other seriously ill people were in the same room, requiring constant care. My ward mates brought their own distractions as well, mainly moans of pain, random shouting, and hushed conversations with their families and doctors.

Finally, I was stable enough to be transferred to my own ward. This was a huge relief, as it was much quieter and I could get better rest.  I could also finally eat on my own and drink water.. even chicken porridge never tasted so good.


Radiotherapy – with crossed fingers


All in, my ordeal in the hospital lasted for close to 3 weeks, then I was finally well enough to be discharged. Though I was still pretty weak and needed an extra month of home care by a nurse, it was great just to be back home again.

3 months to the day from my initial diagnosis, I was slated to begin my next phase of treatment: 6 weeks of radiotherapy.

I walked across the road every day to be zapped for about 20 minutes, and then spent the rest of the day resting in bed. Breaks were on Saturdays and Sundays. The treatment made me sore, inflamed, and fatigued.

(Editor: Chemotherapy was not thought to be conventionally effective for the cancer cell in Mark’s case. Radiotherapy is far less taxing all things considered, but still exacts a toll on the body)


It would have been a very different journey, without Insurance


All in, the total cost of treatment was over 100K SGD.

I was lucky in some sense, because I had insurance. I had near full coverage (Editor: He spends over $6k a year in premiums!), received top treatment very quickly, and didn’t have to worry about financial issues. This put my mind at ease, helping me to recover.


SGH Bill


A nurse told me of a guy a few years younger than me, who was found to have stage 4 colorectal cancer. He had no prior symptoms, and just found blood in his stools 2 weeks before. That young man didn’t have insurance, and was sobbing in the room, facing a mountain of bills and no good options.

If I hadn’t paid attention to insurance planning, I would have been in the same situation.


Protect Yourself and Your Family. It is your Duty


Even after treatment, you are not really considered to be free from cancer. You have to undergo regular scans to check if it has returned or spread through the body. I would have to live with the fear of cancer returning for the rest of my life.

Despite this, I am grateful for what I have. I have a supportive employer, good friends, and a loving family. I didn’t have to burden others and I could put food on the table for my family and child, which I felt was my responsibility as a father.

I am immensely thankful that I had good coverage and I didn’t have to worry about anything besides my own health. I hope no one else has to go through what I went through, and protect themselves and their families from financial disaster. That’s why I have shared my story. I can safely say that insurance helped save my life.


I am Mark, and here is my experience. Thank you for reading – and hope that you will take an active hand in your policies as I have.

I share my thoughts on how to get the most out of your Integrated Shield Plans in the next article.


www.ClearlySurely.com aims to eradicate the knowledge gap between consumers and Life Insurance. Our Vision is that one day, every Man, Woman, and Child will be properly insured.

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