TAMWORTH woman Lisa Murphie has been to hell and back and her fight against an aggressive form of cancer is not over yet, but she has an important message for others suddenly struck down by the unforgiving disease.
She was just 42 when in June 2012 she found a pea-sized lump in her breast that was subsequently diagnosed as a grade 3-plus tumour, an already advanced cancer that launched her on a dizzying merry-go-round of surgery, 18 months of chemotherapy and a gruelling program of radiation.
She says the chemo almost killed her several times and at a point when her body was at its lowest ebb, her spirit was struck a similar blow when she lost her job due to her illness and then her beloved fiance suddenly passed away.
Ms Murphie also has two disabled sons to look after and it was them, after two years of struggling to cope without any financial assistance, who she thought of when finally faced with mounting bills and a fear she could lose her house.
“When you’re diagnosed and they say you have cancer, you’re trying to digest it all, so you don’t think about a lot of other things,” she said.
“Paying the bills doesn’t even come into your mind ... but I finally got to the point where I thought ‘I’m going to lose my house and everything I’ve worked for’.
“I had the world on my shoulders because it didn’t just affect me, it affected the future of my boys, as well.”
Fortunately she revealed these fears to a counsellor at The Cancer Council earlier this year who pointed her in the direction of AMP financial planner Dianne Case, and suddenly things started to change for the better.
Ms Case was able to negotiate with creditors on her behalf and contacted Ms Murphie’s superannuation fund who revealed Lisa had income protection insurance built into her policy.
She may even be entitled to a lump sum payout if it’s deemed she’s unable to return to work on a permanent basis.
“I walked out of that first meeting with Dianne feeling like a weight had been lifted, and there was finally some light in what was such a dark time,” Ms Murphie said.
And this is the message she’s now determined to get across to other cancer sufferers: while you’re in the fight of your life, you don’t need financial stress weighing you down as well.
Ms Case, from Tamworth’s Firefly Finance, has been doing pro bono work for The Cancer Council for a number of years, wanting to do something for the cause after losing her father to the disease and seeing her mother fight it on several occasions.
She said too many people had no idea about the insurance options open to them, many of us unaware of the built-in protections superannuation funds may provide.
At the very least, she said, she could negotiate with creditors on an individual’s behalf.
However, Ms Case believes Ms Murphie’s situation should be a wake-up call to everyone that illness can strike at any time and additional insurance policies that guarantee an income if work becomes impossible are worth considering.
Despite the ravages of treatment and the blows she’s suffered in the past two years, she remains upbeat and determined to keep busy – “That keeps my mind off everything,” she says.
She must endure further surgery and treatment this year, but says she now has some peace of mind and is determined to keep a smile on her face.
“The saying I’ve adopted is, ‘if you’re not smiling, you’re not living’.”