In May Nicola Groves got a massive shock. The 45-year-old mother of two was told, bluntly, that she had breast cancer. "When I heard the words, 'You do have breast cancer and you are going to lose your breast', I felt as if time stood still," she says.
Surgery followed in July but despite the lengthy operation and ongoing physiotherapy to maintain movement in her arm and back, Nicola says the pain has been manageable.
She is thankful for the support she received from family and friends in Bury who helped to look after her boys during her hospital stay. At the time, her 10-year-old son received a bravery award from his schoolteacher for how he coped with his mum's illness.
Meanwhile her four-year-old son wasn't really aware what was happening, but Nicola says: "His birthday celebrations had to be put on hold, though a day trip to Blackpool is now well overdue and something we'll cherish as a family."
The year has been full of emotional turmoil for Nicola and her family, but at least the whole affair hasn't turned into a financial disaster, as it does for many.
That's because Nicola and her husband took out life and critical illness insurance in 2012. The cost of the monthly premiums with the Zurich policy was £83 for them both. The payout this year was more than £75,000.
"When Marc, my financial adviser, called to say my claim had been successful, I cried," Nicola admits. "I can't stress enough how much of a difference some financial security has made to my recovery and state of mind. It's allowed me to think about next steps and what's most important to us as a family."
It's a salutary tale. Protection insurance needn't be expensive, but it can make a massive difference if the worst should happen. Peter Hamilton of Zurich pointed out: "Having critical illness cover during times like this means being able to focus on recovery rather than having to worry about covering the mortgage and other household bills."
And that's the real point of critical illness cover. It helps reduce concerns at a time of extreme worry.
I made a video recently about getting the right life insurance, with Aviva's protection director, Louise Colley. You can watch it online here: ind.pn/1xgXTca.
Nicola Groves, 45
Since receiving the shattering news in May that I had breast cancer, I've undergone a mastectomy and am now at home recovering before reconstructive surgery.
My journey started last summer with discomfort in my breast. My GP concluded I was low risk and that the pain was most likely cyclical. It took two further visits before I was referred to a specialist clinic.
There I was given an ultrasound and biopsy and told to wait a week for the results. I had been reassured I was low risk and never expected bad news, so wasn't really prepared for the bad news.
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