You may read about “heroes”, people doing extra ordinary things in extra ordinary situations. People running into burning buildings to save others. Soldiers single handedly fighting off attacks from enemy soldiers. But when you’re dealing with cancer, you’re stressed out, your health’s a mess and life is on the line, heroes that can really help don’t need to be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. They just need to mow your lawn, take your dog for a walk, shop for groceries or do a little extra for you at work. I’ve been blessed with many heroes in my time. Here are a few…
It was 2004. My wife was offered a job in Pennsylvania (we were living in Connecticut at the time) and we were looking to buy a house in Bucks county. That spring and summer, the real estate market was the opposite of what it is today. Few houses were on the market, those that were had high prices and sold quickly. We were trying to get into a house before school began. Our daughter, Kaitlin, would be starting first grade that year.
We settled on a house that was in a good neighborhood, in good shape at a price we could afford. We were approved for a mortgage (But back in those days, who wasn’t?). With the mortgage comes home owner’s insurance, and therein lies the rub.
In December 2000, I was diagnosed with cancer (Hodgkin’s lymphoma). I was able to get into remission thanks to chemotherapy and radiation. But by December 2002, I’d relapsed twice. Statistically, I was not in a good place. In January 2003, I went to see a specialist at a world famous cancer center in New York City. He told me he thought I was terminally ill. I thanked him for his opinion and continued treatment.
I got more chemotherapy and went into remission number three in March 2003. Like the other remissions, this one wasn’t expected to last, so drastic measures were needed. I had an allogeneic bone marrow transplant in May 2003. As a side effect, my immune system was a mess.
Which is where the homeowner’s insurance policy comes in. After we bought our house in 1996, our good friends and neighbors, Ed and Amy Connors, also happened to be our insurance agents. So when it was time to renew the policy, they suggested buying extra coverage for damage due to possible sewer back ups. We knew, liked and trusted the Connors, so we agreed.
I was in the hospital for about a month, from April to May, 2003, dying to get home. The day before I expected to come home, about 18 inches of sewage water was discovered in our basement. Soaking, among other things, our new, forced air furnace. Fearing it would spray bacteria, and God knows what else, through the house, we called the Connors. That extra coverage we bought came in handy.
Not only were the Connors on the money in suggesting the extra coverage, if I recall correctly, I was told they also helped clean our basement, contact the local water and sewer authority and help get the authority to hire a professional cleaning company to bleach everything in sight and dry out the basement. Due to the sewer back up, we put in a claim for a new furnace and to replace other items that sank into the stink.
After the basement was squared away, we filed another water damage claim, due to leaking water from an upstairs bathroom. We needed the damage fixed, because it caused a lot of mold in one of our walls and a fungal infection of my lungs could kill me. The insurance adjuster was great. Our rate barely went up.
But, less than a year later, we were buying a new house, in a new state and as a risk, we were looked at anew (as I understand it). The first insurance agent in Pennsylvania we contacted told us he had many companies to choose from, but none were interested, because of our two prior claims. His companies, and this agent, washed their hands of us.
At this point, I’m a mess. My health is up in the air. I don’t have a new job lined up. We found a house, but can’t buy one, because we made a claim on insurance coverage that we paid extra to get. Would we lose the deposit of the purchase agreement if we backed out? We got in touch with another agent, Peter Toft, and, like the Connors, he came through. He worked the phones, talked to his connections, and came up with coverage. Sure, his Lloyds of London policy premium could’ve purchased a decent used car, but, what could we do? We wanted a house and needed insurance. Peter became my hero, because when someone else gave up, he made a very difficult time easier for us. He eased our very stressful transition to Pennsylvania, and for that we are very grateful.
Will you be reading about Amy, Ed or Peter about their coming to our rescue, and acting like heroes? No, but that didn’t stop them from helping us. And it shouldn’t stop you from helping a cancer survivor. Like I wrote before, it doesn’t take much. Even if you yourself are going through treatment, be a hero to another. Do someone a favor. Say a kind word. Make someone smile or laugh. Thank someone caring for you. The world needs more heroes. What’s stopping you from becoming one?