Well, I did it. We survived the week on just $6.35! I spent the last of it yesterday on another loaf of bread and the three smallest fish fillets you have ever seen in your life but we DID it and as of last night our grocery money went into the food account so we can finally go shopping, woohoo! I have to admit we have eaten better. Yesterday was a bit of a low point when we were reduced to eating Marmite and Camembert toasted sandwiches as we literally had nothing else. I had been saving the Camembert from a gorgeous gift hamper I was given for Christmas by some dear friends but it was the only cheese we had in the house. Even in a toasted sandwich I had to admit it was bloody marvellous and I shall forever be grateful for it. Still, having survived the week on next to nothing I couldn't wait to be able to enjoy some decent food again and was looking forward to today. However I had no idea just how good today would turn out to be.
You may remember me mentioning in my last post about income protection insurance being a sore point. Cor blimey hasn't it just! I took the policy out last year on the recommendation of - well, all sorts of people. Being a writer isn't exactly the most dangerous or hazardous line of work but even so, should I accidentally lose a hand or have some dreadful illness befall me so that I was unable to work, my self employed status as I was at the time would not entitle me to any sick pay. So I did as I was told, took out a shiny new life insurance policy (saving me $72 a month on the old one, with MORE cover) and chucked in some income protection insurance for good measure. This was in June. Little was I to know that at the end of August I was going to get pneumonia. And then again in October! In all I was unable to work properly for almost two whole months and my GP told me I had valid cause to make a claim. This I duly did and when they requested to view my medical records for more information I agreed without hesitation, after all, I had absolutely nothing to hide.
So I was more than a little surprised when a few weeks after they contacted me to say that my claim was being declined on the grounds that a) I didn't tell them when I took out my policy that I had had a lump in my breast in 2012, b) I didn't tell them I also had a dodgy smear test in 2012 and c) I didn't tell them I was depressed in December 2013. You might be thinking 'Indeed, why didn't she tell them that?' The answer, dear reader when they showed me the original policy was that they never asked. What they did ask was a) had I been hospitalised at any time over the past five years due to serious illness. My answer was no and it was the truth, I had not been hospitalised at any stage until my pneumonia. My breast lump turned out to be a harmless lump of fatty tissue which disappeared by itself and the abnormal smear test had not turned out to be anything harmful and required no further treatment. As for being depressed, my marriage had broken up a few months earlier, I was hardly going to be doing cartwheels! But I never took a single one of the anti-depressants the doctor prescribed me and still had the entire packet to prove it.
Besides, what did any of these things have to do with the price of fish? I was making a claim on the grounds of pneumonia, yet the way they were carrying on I was potentially suicidal if I wasn't already half dead from the other things first. Despite the fact that it was their lack of questions on taking out the policy which were at fault, they insisted that had they known about these conditions they would have never given me the policy; or at very least would have deferred it for 12 months to make sure I didn't kick the bucket first. Basically, the cover I had been paying for all this time wasn't covering me at all and never had - yet even now they were still taking my money. Back and forth the emails went and every time I shot them down until the only thing they had left to say was that they still considered me a high suicide risk. Unfortunately for them they were saying this to a woman who had $6.35 in the bank to feed her kids with and I was not only feeling determined but powerful. In person I'm a pretty meek little thing who can never find the right thing to say or come up with smart answers on the spot. But as a writer? You can't argue with me on paper. I will ALWAYS win. So on Sunday morning I gave them both barrels. And I knew this time I had them.
This morning I had just picked up the keys to a holiday home I was about to clean when the phone rang. I couldn't resist taking a photo of those keys as I thought the keyring dangling on the end of them was so appropriate! At the other end of the phone was a man from Westpac Life Insurance who had been given my case. 'Oh hello!' I said in a cheery voice. He seemed quite taken aback. 'Oh yes, sorry I was rather blunt in my email wasn't I?' I laughed. 'Yes, you sound very different in person. In fact you sound like the least suicidal person I've ever heard!' Well there ya go, the proof was in the pudding mate. 'Look, I'll be honest with you', he went on. 'The underwriters have been through your case again and are sticking to their guns. Had we known your medical history you would not have been approved for that policy. We have to decline your claim. But - it's not your fault, we should never have given it to you. You've been paying all these months for non-existent cover and to top it off you've had one hell of a crap time. So we're refunding all those monthly payments. And are paying you half of the amount you claimed on compassionate grounds'.
At which point I didn't give a stuff that my call was being recorded and told the man he was a legend and I would give him a massive hug if I could before bursting into noisy sniffles to be stashed in the Westpac archives for posterity. And then I went and cleaned that holiday home and sang at the top of my voice. What does this mean for me? It means I can pay off some of the debts which I've struggled to pay for the past two years. It means I can pay the vet, the mechanic and all the other locals I've been crossing the street to avoid out of embarrassment. It means that I still have a long way to go and we still to be really careful but there's a big light shining at the end of the tunnel. I'm almost too scared to hope but I think it means at last that the universe has decided to give me a break.