Father about to be diagnosed with cancer needs help with life insurance
March 18, 2014 7:54 PM   Subscribe

I'm 49 and my wife is 44. We have two small children 7 and 2 and do not own life insurance. Last Friday, we learned my wife has breast cancer, and the same day found out there is a likelihood I could be diagnosed with bladder cancer in the following weeks. Is there any kind of life insurance which I should quickly try to secure in the short time I have while I am still basically healthy?

Last Friday was not a good day. My wife's biopsy showed breast cancer on the same morning my urologist opined that the small amount blood in my urine could be caused by, among other things, 'tumors'. The possibility that my children could soon have both parents fighting cancer has turned our world upside down.

My wife's cancer is likely in the early stages and her prognosis is generally good. My doctor has ordered some CT scans and further tests to examine my situation.

While I try to swallow the shame of turning 50 with two children and no life insurance, is there any kind of life insurance that I should try to quickly secure, while I can still honestly answer that my health is good, and I've never been diagnosed with cancer or any other major disease?

Background my health situation: While I've lived in the US for the last 3 years, I lived and worked in the tropics for 15 years where I was regularly exposed to a somewhat rare form of urinary shistosomiasis. While I was careful and felt I never 'caught it', and never developed any symptoms, it now appears highly likely that I could have easily been infected AND asymptomatic for a long time. I've since learned that bacteria accompanying the presence of these schistosomes in the bladder can often lead to bladder cancer. My worst case scenario is that they will find evidence of tumors in the next week or so after a CT scan, followed by a direct look at them via cytoscopy, probably the week after that. Bladder cancer often presents itself at a late stage, and has a much lower survivability than early stage breast cancer.

The fact that North American medicine is very slow to discover tropical diseases could work to my advantage here, and buy me a little more time. Blood in the urine can be caused by many things, such as kidney stones. They will obviously look in that direction first.

I'm basically healthy as a horse, save for a slightly elevated white count, and a small amount of blood in my urine, which was discovered more or less by routine exam.

Obviously if I need to submit blood and urine to get life insurance, there might be some flags raised there. (No illegal drug use, but I take Adderall daily for ADD). But is there anything I can and should do asap in terms of life insurance, which will not be available to me in a months time?

Thanks for reading all of this. I'm a worried and ashamed father and husband, spooked by two doctors speaking about cancer on the same day.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Your work may offer life insurance that requires no health exam, though you may have missed the "open enrollment" period for it.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 8:27 PM on March 18, 2014 [5 favorites]

A way around open enrollment is having a "significant life event" that may cause necessary changes in insurance. Depending on who is on whose policy, one desperate play might be to file for divorce and then change your policy.

Best of luck.
posted by thewestinggame at 8:43 PM on March 18, 2014

First things first. I can't begin to imagine the stress you are feeling right now. You sound very convinced that you have cancer. I went down a similar rabbit hole this winter....with a CT scan, and a whole body bone scan, and lots of stress, and uncertainty, and my doctor wondering about a mass pressing on my spine, and other scary stuff. And guess what....it was all for nothing. I am totally OK. I got myself worked up and was convinced I had cancer. So....take a deep breath and try to dial it back as far as what might be going on with your urine. As you said, there are lots of possibilities.

Your wife sounds like she will be OK. Her prognosis is good. Lets assume for a moment that her treatments work out as planned and she is cancer free soon. She could still get a term life insurance policy. I just found this site as one example. There are probably others.

And to answer your question more directly, you can buy term life insurance with no medical exam on the open market. This site talks about the implications of doing that.

Good luck.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 9:19 PM on March 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

You are very young. I would be concerned about having the proper health insurance, first and foremost.

I appreciate you wanting to have your kids provided for, but I do not see any reason why both you and your wife would not be around for them. If it turns out you have bladder cancer, it is likely at an early stage, when the survival rates are very high.

Good luck.
posted by Danf at 9:37 PM on March 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

I appreciate that you and your wife are having a very bad time, and that your head is spinning. I am a little concerned that, in your understandable and urgent need to address the modifiable aspects of the worst case scenario, you might be hearing and processing your own health news in the worst possible light. For example, although you've said that bladder cancers are often detected late and are less survivable than early stage breast cancer, the NCI says that 70-80% of bladder cancers present with superficial (early-stage) tumors, which are very survivable with treatment (like 90-98% 5-year survival rates). There's no such thing as a good cancer - I have a "good cancer" and it can frankly go to hell - but a superficial bladder cancer in a relatively young man in good health is a manageable cancer, as is early-stage breast cancer in a similarly young, healthy woman.

A term life insurance policy might be helpful, but (please excuse me for the term) catastrophizing is probably not. Either way, you might want to talk to some people who've been there - ACS, Cancer Support Community, and NCI all have resources for peer support for patients and their families.
posted by gingerest at 10:55 PM on March 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Insurance is a wager between you and the insurer that you're going to continue to be okay, based on the odds of all the other insured people who are okay when they make the bet. For the bet to be fair, both parties need to be fully and correctly informed of the relevant factors. What you're asking is whether there is a way to get someone to take the other side of the wager with incomplete knowledge. You have insider information about your health that causes you to suspect you might not actually be okay. If your insurer takes the bet without you sharing that information, that's not fair play. For this reason, insurers typically require you to provide them access to your health records. Many of them also require you to take a physical exam with their chosen doctor. Chances are, any insurer who spots the hematuria diagnosis will insist on a rider that excludes any sequelae from that condition for the next few years.
posted by gregor-e at 11:44 PM on March 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

While I try to swallow the shame of turning 50 with two children and no life insurance

Dammit man don't be so hard on yourself.

I'm a worried and ashamed father and husband,

You are a regular guy just trying to do the best you can. Good on you. Cut yourself some slack.
posted by three blind mice at 3:21 AM on March 19, 2014 [26 favorites]

If you are eligible for USAA they are super great, and their turn around time for my application was about two weeks.
posted by spunweb at 6:03 AM on March 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

You and your wife may already have life insurance through your jobs. Typically the offering is one year's salary, with an option to take on more. Check into that before freaking completely out.

Another thing to know is that your children would be eligible for Social Security should either, or both of you die.

Not that I believe that you need to worry at this stage about these things, but you might feel better about everything if you knew what to expect.

Call your respective HR departments and find out what you actually have.

As it stands right now, you probably won't qualify for Life Insurance, but if you get a clean bill of health (and I'm pulling for you here) you can apply for term insurance.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:15 AM on March 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm sorry that you're dealing with this. I basically had a panic attack not too long ago when my dermatologist left an ominous message after a skin exam. And I hope everything works out for your wife. That said, it sounds like you're catastrophizing which is a totally normal response to a stressful situation.

Re-reading your question, lots of things can cause blood in urine. Most of them aren't fun things but they're certainly not all cancer. Kidney stones affect 1 in 11 Americans. There are under 73,000 new cases of bladder cancer in the U.S. every year. Plus most of the people who get bladder cancer are older than you.

Your paragraph on your work in the tropics sounds like it could be from an episode of House. I'm not a doctor and I guess it's possible that you have some weird thing. My occasional health freak-outs are related to lupus which my mother had and polycystic ovarian syndrome which my sister has. No doctor has ever suggested to me that it's possible that I could have either of these things, probably because I don't.

Don't feel shame about not having life insurance. I'm confident that if you asked on Facebook, there are at least a handful of people you know who are in similar situations and don't have life insurance. Plus shame isn't usually productive. I think you'll have to submit blood and urine for life insurance - my husband did - but don't let that stop you from applying. If you don't have it through work, you can try to find a group like USAA or an alumni association through which you can apply.
posted by kat518 at 6:52 AM on March 19, 2014

Short of cooking meth, SBLI offers term insurance at reasonable rates. They claim to require only a "simple Paramedic Exam in your own home". I doubt any paramedic can diagnose cancer. YMMV, and of course you may eventually be caught up in fraud charges, or your heirs may have trouble collecting if there's any doubt about "when" you were diagnosed.
posted by Gungho at 7:07 AM on March 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm really sorry you're going through this.

The fact that North American medicine is very slow to discover tropical diseases could work to my advantage here, and buy me a little more time. Blood in the urine can be caused by many things, such as kidney stones. They will obviously look in that direction first.

I'm not sure if this is an attempt at gallows humor, as it were, but you shouldn't be hiding any information from your doctor that could help get an accurate diagnosis and prompt treatment.

Insurance companies are wise to anything you could plan, and should they discover that you lied on your application after your death, they can absolutely withhold payment. Having recently applied for term life insurance I can say that you will sign several pieces of paper saying that you are being open and honest and disclose all past, and possible current health issues, regardless of if you have an exam (which will include blood and urine) or medical record request (at 50, I'm betting you will).

Looking beyond life insurance, do you and your spouse have wills that are up to date? Any health insurance navigation you can be offered through your work will be valuable too.
posted by fontophilic at 7:28 AM on March 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Having an insurance policy is no guarantee of payment. If you were to die of bladder cancer (a vanishingly unlikely prospect), the insurance company would investigate when you were diagnosed. A date close to the date of the date of cover for your policy would result in an even closer investigation, which would find that you had knowledge that you withheld. Your survivors would receive nothing. This is a practice called "rescission"—basically undoing a contract due to a "material misrep[resentation]" on your part. You would have paid for an insurance policy for years that would have done your survivors no good. You'd be better off putting that money in a savings account.

All of that said, you should probably talk to an expert. Although my grasp of insurance and contract law is pretty good, my knowledge of life insurance is very limited.
posted by waldo at 7:28 AM on March 19, 2014 [6 favorites]

what waldo calls "rescission" is also known as "post-claim underwriting". in the insurance context, gregor-e's noble defense of "fair play" reminded me of the knife fight scene in "butch cassidy".

i would advise not lying to the insurance company. this is not the same thing as telling it every single damn thing you know.

your shame is unwarranted, because you have done nothing wrong.
posted by bruce at 9:23 AM on March 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Seconding USAA, if you are eligible. Their banking and auto/home insurance services are also the best.
posted by jeoc at 6:33 PM on March 19, 2014

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