In Memory of Sarah

Autumn 2014


In memory of Sarah

Michael and Sarah met while visiting Japan on a Lions Club scholarship, moving to England, where Sarah completed an MA in Irish literature at LeedsUniversity, followed by a doctorate in modern poetry at OxfordUniversity. She then lectured English literature in Oxford. Michael became a lawyer.

Marrying in Oxford in 1999, Michael and Sarah then moved back to New Zealand where Sarah lectured at OtagoUniversity and Michael completed more postgraduate studies. After the birth of their first child, they moved to Auckland to further Michael’s career and Sarah left academia to focus on her creative writing. By 2008, writing poetry had become her full-time occupation. The couple were enjoying parenthood, raising two young sons and expecting their third child (a daughter), when they received some devastating news.

Sarah had been experiencing a progressive shortness of breath during her pregnancy, and at 28 weeks was diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer. Her baby was delivered safely, but Sarah, a fit non-smoker, was given just months to live.

Only a short time prior to Sarah’s shock diagnosis, Michael and Sarah had met with their Eric James and Associates advisor to discuss a protection plan for their family in the unlikely event something like this was to happen. Still coming to terms with the situation, they at least had peace of mind knowing that insurance would provide for Sarah’s treatment and changes to their lifestyle.

Because Sarah’s diagnosis was terminal, a full Life Cover benefit was payable immediately, while Major Medical Cover provided for private and immediate medical tests and procedures, including chemotherapy. Sarah and Michael also used some of the early Life Cover payment to seek other drug therapies and Sarah travelled to Melbourne and Boston for treatment.

An exhausting ordeal, but Sarah was determined to give it her all to survive. She responded well to treatment and therapies, and the months turned into years, during which time Sarah published her first book of poetry, Tigers at Awhitu, reflecting on relationships, the physical extremes of illness and the complexities of motherhood. Widely well received, her book drew praise from Sam Hunt who said: ‘I’ve never more strongly suggested people check this book out…. She’s good!’

Sadly, despite Sarah’s strong desire to live and see her children grow up, her health eventually began to deteriorate. Sarah also had Complete Disablement Cover which was payable when she became very ill and daily life with a young family became more challenging. With the help of their insurance, Michael was able to take more time away from work to be with Sarah and their children.

‘The combination of insurances we had in place was such a huge help. When you have so much to worry about, it’s nice not to have to think about money. You can just get on and do what you need to do, and Sarah gave it everything.’

A little over five years after her initial diagnosis, Sarah passed away. She survived long enough to see her daughter go to school. Her second poetry collection, Gleam, was published posthumously in August last year – poems which catalogue the restorative handholds offered by the sea, the beach, the forest but also note the small human resonances of the everyday family life: blocked drains and healing porridge, ice block wrappers and unopened mail.

In memory of Sarah, her love of poetry, zest for life and the spirit of imagination and determination that marked her life and work, Michael has established the Sarah Broom Poetry Prize to be awarded annually in celebration and recognition of poetry in New Zealand. The inaugural prize will be awarded by Sam Hunt at the Auckland Writers & Readers Festival on Saturday 17 May 2014 where the shortlisted poets will read from their work and the winner will be announced.

For more information about the Sarah Broom Poetry Prize and how to donate, please visit Entries for 2014 have now closed but there will be the opportunity to enter for the 2015 prize later this year or early next year.


Strength training – quality not quantity

In our last newsletter we talked about the benefits of incorporating short bursts of incidental exercise into our day to make us feel fitter, stronger, and full of energy. Now it’s time to add in some strength training. But don’t be daunted!

Strength training is all about quality – not quantity. You don’t have to work out hard every day to see a difference. Once a week will do it – really! This is because:

  • Everyone has time to train once a week
  • You can train harder when the emphasis is on quality and not quantity
  • It’s easier to stay motivated and reach your goal as you’re more likely to stick to the programme
  • You have less chance of getting bored.

Since muscle tone is enhanced through the ‘healing’ process after strength training, you only need to work the muscles hard once a week for half an hour to see results. Bodies need time to recover and rest after a hard workout, and will turn firmer and more contoured over a period of time.


Brachytherapy – what is it?

Brachytherapy is a type of radiotherapy used to treat cancer. Typically when most of us think of radiotherapy, we think of External Beam Radiotherapy (EBRT), which directs high-energy x-rays at the site of a tumour from outside a patient’s body, exposing a larger amount of healthy tissue in the body to damaging radiation.

Brachytherapy differs from this in that it involves injecting small radioactive pellets, or ‘seeds’, directly at the source of the tumour. This provides a more targeted source of radiation and reduces the damage to otherwise healthy tissue in the patient, which in turn decreases the chance of any serious side effects from the procedure. The procedure itself will often take two forms – temporary brachytherapy, where the seeds are inserted for a limited amount of time before being withdrawn; or permanent brachytherapy where the seeds are implanted permanently. Over time, the radioactivity of the implanted seeds will drop to levels where they can remain in the body without any further effect.

Brachytherapy is used to treat a wide range of cancers, most notably those of the prostate, breast and cervix. The rate of success is comparable to existing surgical or EBRT techniques but with the added benefits of reduced side effects as well as being a much quicker procedure. This means shorter doctors’ visits on fewer occasions, making it a more convenient option that allows treatment to take place on an outpatient basis.

It’s important to remember that like many procedures, brachytherapy isn’t cheap. For instance, a prostate brachytherapy procedure can cost between $21,000 and $25,000.

Talk to your Eric James and Associates advisor about non-surgical health cover, including cover for cancer treatment, with its benefits of avoiding treatment queues that often accompany public healthcare. While premiums may seem like a burden now, the difference that insurance makes is fast access to healthcare when you need it.


Duty of disclosure

Failing to disclose a pre-existing condition can be costly when taking out an insurance policy.

Here’s an example. A policyholder covered since 2011 submits a claim for a bowel condition. The insurer, upon requesting medical information for the person in question, discovers a range of issues stretching back to 2008. Unfortunately, on the policyholder’s application form, the health question relating to bowel disorders had been ticked ‘no’, indicating that the policyholder had no knowledge of any previous issues. This was despite a medical history showing approximately 10 visits to a doctor during which bowel health issues were recorded and assessed.

If the insurer had known this information, the policy would have had an exclusion placed on the health cover relevant to the condition, with the understanding that the purpose of insurance is not to ‘mop up’ existing health conditions, but rather protect against any unforeseen future issues or events.

The implications of non-disclosure can lead to two options – to accept a personal exclusion for a pre-existing condition (insurance cover with the pre-existing condition not covered); or to avoid (cancel) the policy as the terms of disclosure had not been met.


On the move? Let us know

In the upheaval of moving house, it can be easy to overlook tasks like having adequate insurance cover, and advising us of your change of address.

If you have relocated or plan to relocate, it is crucial you let us know. We will update your records, and advise your insurer/s, and leave you to deal with the myriad of tasks associated with moving.

More News

Recipe time!

With plums prolific in neighbourhood gardens and discounted in supermarkets, it’s time to make good of the glut of stone fruit with this fresh, airy cake (which is also a winner for lunchboxes).

Read More »

When Pharmac can’t provide

One of our insurance partners has recently released data from 2023 that highlights just how valuable well-tailored health insurance can be when Kiwis are faced with the unimaginable.

Read More »

Buy once, buy well

When it comes to the important things in life it’s often worth spending more on that first purchase or, at the very least, doing a little research pre-purchase. Here are three simple thoughts to keep front-of-mind when thinking about the long-term cost implications of that next spend.

Read More »