And then the Earth moved

by George on 6 April 2014

…or maybe the Goalposts

Things take over. Weeks of visiting and sometimes even staying in hospital overnight for a loved one seem to be over when she is back at home. But not before one really bad day. She is just wasting away, leading to me to realise that she might not be for this Life for much longer – resulting in a long sleepless night at home. Spending the whole day waiting around for another medical appointment proves to be as exhausting as working long hours in a proper job. And that “bad day” proves to just that, with a huge improvement the next day. Volunteering (& blogging) is very much on the back burner with only a couple of evenings in three months at the soup kitchen. TPAS send an urgent email – they need more phone volunteers for April.

Annuities are Theft!

This comment from a fellow IFA many years ago which I have quoted more than once in these pages, seems to have found an ear in this government with the message – Well children, you can behave like grown-ups now – where your pension is concerned. The unasked question might be – what took you so long?

And for the less fortunate?

Where does that leave those who have cancer or the terminally-ill where access to their pensions is concerned?

Reading through the many scheduled changes and areas of consultation in the current Finance Bill, show no hint of change to Serious Ill-health Lump-sum payments. All the same, methinks it’s best to check and 24 hours later, with the quickest response I have ever had from HMRC (or any government office) – its’ no change.

Even better, they quote a link to a consultation document on greater pension flexibility from 2015, issued by H M Treasury Perhaps CancerIFA’s idea of increasing the Serious Ill-health Lump-sum time limit from 12 months to 36 months, is not dead in the water after all.

But as it’s been a while, let me summarise our current situation:

* in normal health & 55 years or older, you can now: take 25 per cent tax-free cash (as before) and the balance as income – the last bit is the huge change. But this income is taxable.

* as above, but under 55 years? No change really and if you see anything that smells like pension liberation – promising you your pension funds before this age, avoid it. Even if you were one of the early ones who got all their pension money out, don’t be surprised if a 55 per cent surcharge bill arrives in the post.

* in serious ill-health with less than 12 months to live, no change. Your pension funds can be paid out tax-free, up to a generous 7-figure limit. You need the medical confirmation of this, but then in CancerIFA’s work, this is usually the easy bit, although doctors charge up to £300 for the report.

Case Histories

First case history here and second one here, both clients sadly now deceased.

Third enquiry comes from the employer of a married man not yet 40 with young children. After quoting my terms, nothing happens for 3 months but then it’s all go, and the client and I eventually have a chat. Cancer started some years ago and treatment given. Feels better, goes back to work but this does not work out and he has been on sick leave ever since. A two page summary of the issues involved is sent to the client and then nothing for a while. There is little for CancerIFA to do as the employer has promised to pay everything to him except the Death-in-Service benefit. I leave things and mention alternative treatments, but he is not really interested. With confirmation that no further input from me is required, my invoice goes off to the employer who pay with little fuss.

Most recent enquiry comes while I am sleeping at the hospital. An acknowledgement is sent and then it goes quiet again. This enquiry via YestoLife, is from a lady with just over a year to live. Unlike the other enquiries, this lady is trying lots of alternative treatments and surprise, surprise, the tumour has shrunk slightly. I mention the Loving Medicine book featuring among others, my own father’s case where alternative treatment gave him an extra 16 years. Offering to send my own spare copy, the lady says she will buy it herself and is grateful for my mentioning it.

Not Appreciated

Slightly different from a friend to whom I sent the same book upon his diagnosis of cancer, where he gives it back to me 3 months later with no comment or words of thanks.

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The Laying on of Hands

by George on 9 February 2014

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Things are not looking good. Chemo-therapy 2009 and open-heart surgery 2011 have improved things but the heart is struggling. Some of the heart valves are leaking but the underlying cause is a little-understood condition sickle cell anaemia.

We all have red blood cells which carry the oxygen we breathe in, round the body. Red blood cells shaped rather like a ring-shaped doughnut do the job well and crucially, slide over each other. Sickle cells being crescent-shaped (hence the name) are less efficient and carrying oxygen and sometimes tangle together – usually in the joints. These episodes called “crises” are painful, often caused by cold or stress.

All this means that the heart has much more work to do get a given amount of oxygen delivered round the body and the heart ages more quickly.

After weeks in hospital with only a few days at home just after Christmas, she is back at home again but the attention needed puts my duties as a volunteer on the back burner. The results of some very sophisticated tests suggest that just one more is required, with a view to another heart operation in a few weeks time.

It’s a Cock-up

The level of expertise involved is amazing but cock-ups still happen even with all the bureaucracy and regulation.

Before Christmas we are in a four-bed ward and a young girl is in the next bed. In her early 20s, she has had chemo-therapy for a year, is bald as a coot and now bed-ridden. Mum is there most of the time being able to stay with friends in London and Dad when he shows up is sometimes in tears. Weeks later when visiting the hospital for another blood test, we find she has been moved to her own room. I had previously mentioned two sites to them which might be able to help: Harry Edwards Healing Sanctuary and Cancer Options but because of a computer virus, these have not been followed up.

Am I Going to Die Mummy?

Mum is showing the strain but bearing up, and relates a scary incident. Part of the regular medication includes one to keep the lymphoma under control and one day this medication is missed. 24 hours later, the girl’s mood has changed completely and it’s like the spark or joy of life has left her. Fortunately, Mum spots this and asks if this medication has been given?  The girl is now having fits and a check of the file shows it was omitted for some reason plus someone’s initials have been scrubbed out. Medication restored, the happier mood returns although the girl does ask “Am I going to die, mummy?”

But That’s What I Usually Do

Back to my own loved one in hospital and liquid intake and outtake is closely monitored with daily blood tests to check the kidney function and other readings. With heart and kidney issues, treating one can affect the other giving a narrow range of doses available which the doctor describes as being “between a rock and a hard place”. Decision is made to stop one medicine because of the test results – fine. One hour later, a young male nurse comes in to do some observations and give some medicine including the one that has been stopped. Politely, we protest which gets the answer “But that’s what I usually do!” to which we suggest that he goes and check? One hour later embarrassed nurses apologise.

As von Clausewitz might have said – Medicine by Other Means

There seems no point in ignoring other options. One that springs to mind is Harry Edwards Healing Centre. In 2006, a year before I have cancer myself, a former colleague gives me a copy of Ramus Branch’s book: Harry Edwards: The life story of a great healer.

An incident that lingers from the book (page 43) is where Harry is in Iraq in the days when it was a British Protectorate. He has run out of medicines and the mother of a local sheikh is very ill. In desperation, Harry grinds up some pink carbolic toothpaste powder into four sachets, telling her to take it at sunrise and sunset – it works!

Do You Mind Being Touched?

A healing appointment is booked and we manage to find the Sanctuary deep in Surrey at Burrows Lea. Three healers are waiting and after filling in a brief questionnaire, we go into a healing room. The sun is streaming in through the large picture window and the healing can take place either lying down on a couch or in an electrically-adjustable armchair.

Preferring to stay in the armchair, the main healer then asks “Do you mind being touched?” No problem she says, and the process is exactly what it is usually called, the laying on of hands. Nothing is said, no mumbling to themselves, no chanting, no incense, no gongs or happy clappy new age stuff. Starting at the head, the two healers move round the body while the other lady healer with hands open, is also praying. The room is very quiet – one can hear the recent rain running off the roof, the birds singing outside – even the grinding of the gears in the battery-powered wall clock.

Session lasts an hour. Chatting to the healers afterwards, we are told that their training takes two years. We pause in the chapel for a few minutes before the drive home, and we will be back.

 

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Counting Chickens…(3Cs Diaries #17)

January 26, 2014

Tweet ..and helping them Hatch First 3Cs Community meeting of the year at UCL Advances, the business incubator unit of University College London which has two parts - the Hospital and the academic bit. Among the many plaudits of latter is that it was the first non-American institution to be connected to ARPANET forerunner of the […]

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Crime Scene? (Soup Kitchen Diaries #12)

January 5, 2014

Tweet Here We go Again It’s getting cold and Haringey Churches Winter Shelter programme has been running since early December now covering Enfield as well. I am asked which three weekends I can help as I normally do the overnight shift from Saturday night to Sunday morning. This means 8 hours watch split between three people […]

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Goodbye to A Good Year

December 21, 2013

Tweet From the gloom of  a dark January evening… ..comes CancerIFA’s first paying client, turning the service from an informal chatline for cancer sufferers and financial advisers with clients who are seriously ill, into a business. This means, Companies House & Tax Returns, a bank account and an accountant is rewarded for being a good introducer […]

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All Human Life is There

December 15, 2013

Tweet Another Day on the switchboard For most of our lives, pensions are often near the bottom of favourite topics for discussion. The years roll by and some back of the envelope calculations suggest a serious fall in your standard of living but since most people don’t wake up until well into middle age, it […]

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To Protect the Guilty (3Cs Diaries #17)

December 5, 2013

Tweet No animals were harmed during the making of….. There you are watching the closing credits with the usual warnings about any resemblance to people, places or happenings being purely coincidental etc and sometimes “names have been changed to protect the innocent”. It’s the last 3Cs Community meeting of the year at solicitors Taylor Wessing […]

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A Day at the Switchboard

November 28, 2013

Tweet The Coalface of Pension Advice The largest pool of money you will ever have, an insult when you mention it to someone in their 20s who is just starting work and a subject likely to stop conversation dead at dinner parties. Yes, it’s pensions and such is our apathy for this, that the government has […]

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Does Eleanor Rigby live in Muswell Hill? (Soup Kitchen Diaries #11)

November 22, 2013

Tweet Remember the Chorus? Ah look at all the lonely people….. A great song in your youth sounds a bit different now. 6pm and time to open up. Am I first tonight? Only a tiny light is on inside the church hall, making me wonder if Chef has taken a night off. Fortunately he has been there […]

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Do Freemasons do Yoga? (Yoga Diaries #05)

November 17, 2013

Tweet For my Next Diet I shall….. Dieting makes you fat! Yo yo dieting certainly does but following the 5:2 diet for several weeks removes 8 kilos. For uninitiated, the 5:2 diet involves partial fasting (600 calories twice a week) which burns abdominal fat, rather than complete fasting (days when you eat nothing) which results in muscle […]

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