Critical Illness from a Broker Who Knows First-hand

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Broker and breast cancer survivor
Dawn Luhning knows the
seriousness of critical illness first-hand.

Dawn Luhning, a financial advisor for Desjardins Financial Security Investments and City Councillor based in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, knows the importance of critical illness insurance like no one else in her business.

“I started on the insurance side of the business in 2003 with Clarica, which is now Sun Life, and bought critical illness policies back then,” she says. “Then, just last August, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.”

With that, she became the first person on her client list to claim on a critical illness policy —something she thought she’d never have to do in a million years.

“I had two policies, a term policy and another one that gave all your premiums back at age 65. I thought, ‘Gee, if I never use this, I could have $50,000 to fall back on for retirement.’ It just made sense, protecting yourself against something like a critical illness.”

Still, some in the insurance industry would have you believe otherwise, claiming that disability insurance can cover you better than critical illness at a much cheaper cost. Luhning’s first-hand experience told her otherwise.

“It meant the world to me when I got the money because I didn’t know if I was going to need chemotherapy or whether I was even going to be able to work,” she says.

“Most disability plans only cover you if you’re totally disabled and if you can work at all, you may be out of luck, and each plan has its own benefits.”

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, the chances you will develop cancer in your life time are two in five, and the chances of dying from it are one in four, while the chances of your house burning down are actually only one in 3,000 homes — yet almost everyone buys homeowner’s insurance.

“When you ask people what their biggest asset is, they usually say their house or their car, which is why they often don’t buy critical illness because they forget that their biggest asset is their income,” confirms Luhning. “They wouldn’t have a house or a car if they didn’t have an income.”

For her part, Luhning got her cheques within three weeks of putting in her claim. She was diagnosed in August, had surgery at the end of that month, put her claim in at the beginning of September, and got her cheques at the end of that month.

Perhaps the best thing about a critical illness policy cheque is there is no restriction on what you can spend the tax-free lump sum payment on, and as long as you survive a 90-day cancer exclusion period from the time you first sign up for the policy, you’re good to go. Luhning received over $200,000 from her two policies, and though she still has over half the money, she did manage to pay off some things.

“I paid off my car loan that I’d bought over two years ago, and that freed up some money every month. It was like Freedom 55 in a way. It was like, ‘Woooo, I got all this money,” she says, laughing.

“We’d always been putting off renovations to our house because it was always about the money, but now we’ve just decided to go for it and do things that make us happy because you never know what kind of life-threatening scare could be coming around the corner.”

Luckily, Luhning managed to dodge the chemotherapy bullet, but she did do 21 days of radiation treatments. “Radiation was okay. I was a little bit tired — that’s really all it took out of me, but I was off every afternoon,” she describes. “I took the last week of treatments off, but I actually worked right through. I was really fortunate, in a way, and so far, so good.”

Luhning goes back for screenings every six months for the next five years, but so far, she’s in remission. A lot of that is due to the fact that he doctors believe she caught it early enough. The cells were never given a chance to metastasize and spread to other areas. 

“I caught it in the shower, but it was probably four or five months before I said anything,” she remembers. “I just knew it was something that shouldn’t be there, but I never said anything. Then in August, I finally cracked and told my husband and he got the ball rolling and said, ‘Okay, we’re taking you to the doctor tomorrow.'”

Though she was reticent to say anything out of fear, her doctor did say that she was fortunate she was so active and the size that she is because had she been bigger, she probably would not have found the lump as quickly.

As for the rest of the money, Luhning says she will keep it as savings in case the cancer comes back because once you get one critical illness diagnosis and payout, you may be unable to claim for any other critical illness. But hers is a lesson that says insurance is not something you can wait on.

“I always tell my clients insurance is not a purchase to sleep on because you never know what might happen tomorrow or the next day, and as soon as something happens, it’s too late.”

For her clients, Dawn Luhning is a living testament to what can happen in life.

“Everyone should have a little critical illness because it’s not going to make the illness go away, but it’s certainly going to make life easier and expand your options when you do have it,” she says.

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That’s a great story. Are there any Critical Illness policies that pay out for a Bipolar Depression or other mental nervous disorders

LSM Insurance
LSM Insurance

Thanks Hillary. It is a very inspirational story. There are no Critical Illness plans that I’m aware of that would pay out for depression or a Mental Nervous Disorder

Tammy Wagner
Tammy Wagner

Your story resonated with me as so many people we know are being diagnosed with various illnesses. Your story is inspiring. Are there certain policies/companies you would recommend? It’s confusing for consumers with so many insurance options out there.

LSM Insurance
LSM Insurance

Thanks Tammy. I appreciate the kind words. It really depends on the insured’s situation. Some companies are better than others in certain age ranges and coverage. There really isn’t a one size or one company fits all answer.

Kerrie Peacock
Kerrie Peacock

Such a great story, I’ve met a lot of people who thought they would never use their critical illness policy but were so happy they had it when they did need it. Thanks for sharing!

LSM Insurance
LSM Insurance

You’re welcome. I couldn’t agree more.