- Kerry Reinhold, Live In the Now Foundation
October is Australia’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month – and an important time for women, men, young and old, to get together and start the conversation about breast cancer and its impact on all those who are affected by it.
Each year, new statistics are released and whilst they can be confronting, they are an important reminder that we need to continue the conversation, continue raising vital funding for research and continue to exercise preventative checks, because breast cancer remains the most common cancer among Australian women (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer)1.
In 2019, it is estimated that2:
• 19,371 women and 164 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer.
• Approximately 3090 Australians (2% of whom are men) will die from breast cancer. This is a frightening eight people every single day.
• Breast cancer accounts for 14% of all cancer deaths in Australian women and is currently the second leading cause of cancer death in Australian women, after lung cancer.
• It is the most common cancer experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, with research showing their survival rates are lower than the general population.
Here at ALI Group, we are passionate about raising awareness and educating Australians on a side of illness many are unaware of, the financial impact. Being diagnosed with any type of cancer or serious illness comes with its financial burdens and many out-of-pocket costs which would come as a shock to many.
This year, we spoke to an expert of the subject Kerry Reinhold, Director & Co-founder of the
Live In the Now Foundation. Kerry is the heart, soul and driving force behind the foundation, and has been in the financial services industry for over 22 years. More importantly, Kerry is a breast cancer survivor.
Kerry witnessed many things during her battle with breast cancer and from it has learnt firsthand that the financial impact of being seriously ill needs to be brought to the surface to make more Australians aware of what it really means to have cancer.
“When a person gets sick with breast cancer, it takes an army to look after that person. If that person has no money, it takes an even bigger army, and those soldiers get tired because caring for someone who is seriously ill does not stop. It’s not just the one person who gets affected by cancer, it affects the people around them too. So, it’s not fair on the people around you if you choose to not take out cover”.
In 2011, when Kerry was working full time and in the middle of building her dream home on 33 acres in South Australia with her partner, she received the news she had breast cancer.
Over two years, Kerry underwent three operations, six months of chemotherapy, six weeks of daily radiotherapy, suffered a heart attack, a broken arm, general ill health and serious dental issues – all of which, were directly related to her breast cancer.
“The reality of cancer is, you don’t just beat it and enter remission. In a way, you have it for life because of what comes after. The stress itself is a killer and if you don’t have money, you will live a real-life nightmare”.
Kerry had to take two years off work just to get through the gruelling treatment and their side-effects. Despite having income protection in place as well as private health insurance, the financial impact and the hidden out-of-pocket costs of being seriously ill set Kerry on an entirely new path and purpose, one which she calls “the best thing to come out of having breast cancer”.
During two years of meeting men and women from all walks of life, hearing their stories, witnessing their struggles, the impact on their mental health, the family breakdowns and the dire effects of financial stress, Kerry started to recognise a gap.
“The gap was that people in the community who were suffering a serious illness needed support but couldn’t afford it. When you get sick, you need to watch every penny”.
After forging a relationship with breast cancer nurse Cheryl Baxter, they discovered a shared passion and determination to make a difference and educate people on what seemed to be ‘hidden’ information, and so the idea of forming their own foundation began to evolve.
“When you get sick, you don’t get handed a brochure with a price break down of how much it’s going to cost and what you’ll have to spend money on. No one gives you that. Even with 22 years in the industry, I was ignorant about the financial impact it would have”.
Seven years ago, Kerry and Cheryl created the Live in the Now Foundation a complete non-for-profit charity, which sees all net profits going directly back to the community. Their vision for the foundation was to achieve a ‘Happy Day’ event each year, a completely free of charge event which brought the community together to support, have fun, share vital information and be educated on the financial side of illness.
The Happy Day events attract more and more people each year. From 50 attendees in the first year, to over 200 this year. From teenagers dealing with the grief of losing a parent, to cancer survivors, the terminally ill and supportive community members. The foundation brings people together to enjoy keynote speakers, comedians, educational seminars, and of course a happy hour at the end of the event. Its sole aim is to bring happiness back to those who need it the most and to take out the doom and gloom of cancer. A concept Kerry and the board of the foundation hope will be adopted by other communities around Australia.
What’s more, the foundation board work each day without receiving a cent to educate as many people as they can about the importance of protecting themselves. Kerry, who has worked with mortgage brokers for over two decades, travels around and presents to broker groups about why they need to be discussing cover with their clients.
“I think more needs to go into educating brokers about what it means to have cancer and go through it first-hand. It’s not just two years of treatment and then it’s over. Especially with breast cancer – you can’t imagine how expensive just the specialist bras are!”
When Kerry was diagnosed, she admits to feeling lucky because she had put something in place for herself in case something ever happened. By having the backup, Kerry was able to take time off work during treatment, which she quickly learnt was unfortunately not the case for everyone.
“Most people don’t have the privilege of having time off, they have to keep working whilst going through treatment and that is so horrible to have to manage. When I was diagnosed back in 2011, if we didn’t have cover in place, I would’ve had to continue working through two years of treatment. Mentally, I don’t know how I would have recovered from having to go back to work. Chemotherapy is awful, but radiotherapy is so much worse. You can have it once or twice a day, every day and you are reminded constantly that you are sick, and you have cancer and you can’t escape it. My mental state was terrible, adding the financial stress to that – I dread to think”.
Even though Kerry had some cover in place, Kerry believes she was a classic example of someone who was fit, healthy and ignorant in thinking she did not need mortgage protection because she could rely on selling assets to see her through, such as selling her investment property – which she did eventually try to do.
“Having the bonus of mortgage protection would have made everything so much easier. I had an investment property and I thought we could sell it to see us through but when we tried to, it wouldn’t sell and the back-up I thought I had was gone. This is something I ask my clients too, what if there’s a down market and the property you’re relying on selling, won’t sell?”
Kerry is happy to stand up in front of anyone and tell her story if it means getting the message and the facts out there. A vulnerable group, which Kerry really drives home, is first home buyers and young people.
“I always talk the facts. I take the emotion out and I speak the facts. The reality is, if the cancer doesn’t kill you, having no money will. I tell young people and first home buyers it’s simple, you can’t afford to not have cover”.
Life costs a lot, when you don’t have any protection in place, especially if something unexpected like a serious illness were to occur. These are the sentiments Kerry is so passionately trying to get across to anyone who will listen, and ALI Group is proud to support Kerry and Live in The Now Foundation’s mission to make more Australians aware of the risks involved with being inadequately insured – especially when you’re taking out a large debt. And this ultimately starts with getting more brokers and financial professionals on board with discussing protection with their loan and mortgage clients.
“I wish I could make brokers sit in an oncology waiting room for a day and speak to the people there receiving treatment about how hard it is financially on top of everything else. Then they would ensure they offered protection to every single client”.
The Live in the Now Foundation operates solely on the good will of donations and by a board of professionals who dedicate their time and effort to furthering the foundation and making it a great success for the community and hopefully, more communities throughout Australia in the future.
Any donation, big or small will go far with supporting the Live in the Now Foundation. If you’d like to help, please click the link below to donate:
1. Australian Government, Cancer Australia, Breast Cancer Awareness Month [accessed at: https://canceraustralia.gov.au/healthy-living/campaigns-events/breast-cancer-awareness-month]