Theirs was a great love story.
John and Mary Rose O’Brien met in high school, but not in the hallways of their school in Brooklyn. “He was my paperboy!”, recalls Mary Rose. “We didn’t start dating until the year after high school. We were 18 and 19.” But after five years of dating, they tied the knot and moved to Staten Island to start a family. They had a son and daughter, eventually moving to Old Bridge, New Jersey and settling down to a comfortable life together.
But sometimes, fairy-tale love stories undergo the most difficult of hardships. With John and Mary Rose, their happily-ever-after was interrupted by cancer.
John was healthy, commuting to Manhattan each day to work in Information Technology. But something slowly began to feel wrong. “He was always a fit guy”, says Mary Rose, “walked three miles a day, he didn’t smoke, he didn’t drink, took good care of himself. So, when his appetite was off, that was a red flag.” An initial colonoscopy and endoscopy came back negative, so doctors assumed a simple diagnosis of gastritis was likely. But six months later, as symptoms didn’t regress, the family doctor suggested John go for an ultrasound.
They found tumors in his liver and pancreas. 80% of his liver was consumed by tumors (“One tumor was the size of a can of Coke”, recalls Mary Rose), and others were soon found. An initial diagnosis of an adenocarcinoma was soon followed by the discovery of pancreatic endocrine cancer, a more slow-growing form. Unaware, he had likely carried tumors for between 15-20 years.
John was 55 when he was diagnosed, and doctors felt that medical efforts could help extend his life. “It was devastating, but because they said it was a slow-growing cancer they thought they could do chemo to shrink it back.”
But the costs began to pile up. “We went to Louisiana for treatment, we went to Louisville for treatment, we went to the Bronx for treatment. We sought out all of our options.” Initial efforts reduced the size of his cancer, but at Stage 4 it was difficult to imagine the long road ahead. Sadly, a second primary cancer, Stage 3 Peri-ampullary adenocarcinoma was diagnosed a year and a half after the first diagnosis.
It quickly became clear that John’s ability to commute and work in Manhattan was going to be compromised, and that the financial impact of his diagnosis could be severe. “We were financially ok at first, using our retirement funds and unemployment insurance.” But as those funds began to decline, the worries and stress about how to continue to live a quality life began to increase.
While researching financial resources online, Mary Rose found a reference to Fifth Season Financial. Its Funds For Living Program allows patients diagnosed with a later-stage illness to find financial relief from an asset they own but don’t realize they can immediately monetize: their life insurance policy. She visited fifthseasonfinancial.com and learned how John might be qualified to take an advance of a part of the death benefit of his policy to help improve his life now.
While initially skeptical (“Is this too good to be true?”), Mary Rose contacted Fifth Season Financial and spoke to their representatives, who gave her a clear understanding of how the Funds For Living process works and how it would generate funds from John’s life insurance benefit. She was particularly interested in the fact that the Funds For Living Program kept his policy intact, and would likely provide two separate payouts: an initial advance now plus a beneficiary payout later (the policy death benefit minus the advance and fees accrued). She filled out an application, and Fifth Season handled the rest. In less than two months, John received an advance of $173,000.
Mary Rose cannot imagine what life would have been like without those funds. “It helped with everything. The burden of everything was lifted off my shoulders, but also off John’s shoulders. He didn’t have to worry about not being able to go back to work. I was able to take family leave. I took 5 months off, and we lived our 30-year retirement in those five months. We went to Punta Cana, we went to Key West, we went to Disney with our family. We saw friends, we went out to dinner…all the things I would have been white knuckles doing as our retirement fund dwindled…We didn’t have to think twice about anything. Can you put a price on that?”
Perhaps most importantly, as John’s medical condition worsened, they could afford to spend John’s final days where he most wanted to be. “We stayed in the house, and this is where he wanted to die. There’s not enough good things that I can say for what Fifth Season did for my family, they made my husband’s dying wish come true.”
After a two-and-a-half-year battle, John passed away at home surrounded by his loved ones. The initial advance covered his needs during his final months, and surplus funds from the policy were paid out to his beneficiaries upon his passing. “If we had decided to sell his policy outright”, as Mary Rose recalled regarding a viatical settlement they considered, “there would have been no money left to give back at the end!”
In the end, John was able to use his life insurance to secure the financial help he needed to live his best possible life. And Mary Rose could not have been more satisfied with their decision to work with Fifth Season Financial. “If there’s a financial reason, whether it’s to keep the roof over your head or if it’s to receive the best treatment for your loved one, this would be the way to go. It isn’t too good to be true, it’s an answer to a prayer.”
In memory of John O’Brien