Finding travel insurance after a cancer diagnosis

The sun’s out and you’re dreaming of a summer getaway, right?

A cancer diagnosis doesn’t have to mean you can’t travel to wonderful places. It certainly doesn’t mean you have to pay for costly travel insurance or go without insurance altogether to make it happen.

There may be lots of insurers that cover pre-existing medical conditions but the one I found particularly easy to access and value for money is Insurancewith.

As the name suggests, Insurancewith’s target market is people with pre-existing medical conditions. With a policy from Insurancewith you can travel anywhere in the world and still be covered by your travel insurance without breaking the bank.

The company’s founder, Fiona Macrae, began the business because she was frustrated by the lack of travel insurance at a reasonable price that covered her own breast cancer diagnosis. Putting her insurance industry experience into practice, she founded Insurancewith to provide people with a medical condition a fair and affordable travel insurance policy.

They’re known in the insurance industry for being good at what they do too – Insurance Times magazine and BIBA have both given Insurancewith awards.

How do you get a quote with InsuranceWith?

Go online or give them a call. Chemo brain meant I found it easier to chat to someone so I gave them a call on 020 3829 3875.

You apply according to your medical condition – there’s an application specifically for people with breast cancer, as well as other conditions like cystic fibrosis, epilepsy and stroke. You can also apply according to the type of policy you’d like – single trip, multi-trip, long stay, cruise and winter sports policies.

There are a four policy levels: Emerald, Sapphire,  Diamond and Platinum – you’re given these levels once you’ve been through the quote process but you can see what’s included in each level for single trip policies and multi trips too.

Cover includes holiday cancellation and £10m in emergency medical expenses as well as the standard bits you’d expect from a regular travel insurance policy.

Cover will soon include all medical equipment, including stoma bags and insulin pumps which are not currently covered.

Once your travel insurance is covered, you can get on to the exciting part – planning!

Other travel tips following a cancer diagnosis:

  • Speak to your oncologist about hospital-approved compression socks for the journey. Some drugs can increase the risk of blood clots and these socks can help reduce your risk while flying. I have a pair – they’re not pretty but what’s pretty about flying!
  • Drink as much water as you can and avoid alcohol entirely on the plane – don’t worry, the party starts when you land!
  • Take all of your travel insurance documents with you so you have them to hand if you need them.
  • Get an EHIC or European Health Insurance Card. It’s free (usually takes a week or so to arrive) and entitles you to free or reduced price healthcare in EU countries and Switzerland, should you need it during your stay.
  • Take your medications in their original packaging so you don’t have to worry about remembering the names of your medications, should you need to speak to a healthcare professional whilst away.
  • Factor 50 all the way; your skin is likely to be more sensistive as a result of treatment. Protect yourself, even if you’ve previously been able to tolerate the sun well.
  • Get shopping for a lovely sun hat – go on, treat yourself!
  • Go and have fun; forget cancer and have a ball! As a friend said to me recently, ‘go for those three courses and that extra bottle, you deserve it’.

If you’re not ready to travel just yet, keep swimming and keep dreaming. You could even start planning your celebratory getaway as something to aim for.

Lots of love, Becky xxx

My breast cancer diagnosis was a strike of luck

Yes, you read that correctly – my breast cancer diagnosis was a strike of luck. Well, three strikes actually:

Lucky strike #1: I found a lump purely by accident 

I discovered a lump when waking one morning. In a lazy daze I rolled to press snooze. As I did so I brushed my left boob and felt something that didn’t feel like much like boob. I was instantly awake. After further inspection I could feel a brazil nut size lump.

Dan and I discussed it, thinking it was probably a cyst and nothing to worry about but we agreed I’d go to the docs, just to be safe.

Lucky strike #2: The doctors aired on the side of caution

A week later I had a breast examination with a junior doctor. She was lovely – asked about family history of breast cancer (of which there is none) and other symptoms like weight loss (of which there were none). Her verdict was that she thought it was most likely a cyst but she was going to chat to a colleague between appointments to get her opinion. She’d call me to let me know the outcome. The call came and they had decided to refer me to The Royal Marsden in Sutton (down the road from where I lived at the time) to check the lump out, just to be safe. 

Lucky strike #3: The nurse thought twice 

A fortnight later, I rocked up at The Royal Marsden. It felt strange to be there. It’s a dedicated cancer hospital and as someone who didn’t have cancer, I found walking past so many very ill people in the corridors incredibly humbling. After arriving on the Breast Cancer Rapid Diagnostic Clinic, I was seen by a specialist nurse who examined my breast. She said it felt like a cyst, that it was nothing to worry about and was I ‘happy to leave it there?’. Having read the leaflet sent by The Marsden, I was expecting a little more than an examination and was slightly confused over what she meant by ‘leaving it there’ – I was expecting to have a scan of sorts, at least. In response to my surprised reaction, the nurse decided to send me for a scan, just to be safe.

It was the scan that followed and the subsequent biopsy that revealed I had stage three breast cancer. It just goes to show you how important it is to check yourself and I can’t tell you how grateful I am to the doctors who aired on the side of caution and the nurse who thought twice. If either of them had made different decisions, my future prospects may not be looking quite so bright. I was lucky to be diagnosed when I was.

It could have been easy to overlook a healthy young woman with no family history of breast cancer because it’s not all that common, hence it happens all too often. This is something Kris Hallenga has experienced first had. When Kris went to her GP about a ‘lumpy boob’ aged 23 she was told it was probably hormonal, after all she was too young for breast cancer, right? Six months later and the lump was ever present so Kris and her mother insisted upon a referral.

Two months later and with an ‘avocado-sized lump’, Kris finally discovered she had breast cancer. Not only did she have breast cancer but it had spread to her spine and was now stage four – as advanced as it gets. Since then, the cancer has spread to her liver and her brain. Had the cancer been diagnosed on her first trip to the doctors, she could be cancer free right now. Instead, as Kris puts it, ‘cancer is kind of my life these days’.

Kris
Kris Hallenga, founder of CoppaFeel!

But rather than sitting back and festering at cancer, Kris and her twin sister have used their experience to set up cancer charity, CoppaFeel!, to spread the message that breast cancer does affect young people. After all, it’s not as freakishly rare as you might think – in the UK, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women under 40 and around 2,100 new cases are diagnosed each year in women aged 20-39 according to Cancer Research UK.

CoppaFeel! encourages young men and women to get to grips with their breasts and regularly check them for lumps, bumps and anything that doesn’t feel normal. As someone who found my lump by accident, I’ve become very aware of how important it is to check yourself. So if there’s one thing you do today, let it be a quick boob check and with this easy to understand guide from CoppaFeel!, you have no excuse not to. If you notice something that doesn’t seem right, get on to your doctor – you have nothing to lose by getting it checked and potentially a lot to lose if you don’t.