Diagnosed with testicular cancer at 31

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After going to the hospital’s emergency room with severe abdominal pain, the doctor told Sam Tshabalala* that he should get a full abdominal scan. It was during this scan that they picked up a potential tumour on one of his testicles. *Stock image used
After going to the hospital’s emergency room with severe abdominal pain, the doctor told Sam Tshabalala* that he should get a full abdominal scan. It was during this scan that they picked up a potential tumour on one of his testicles. *Stock image used

Since entering the workforce, Sam Tshabalala* made a point of having insurance policies in place should the unforeseen happen. When he was diagnosed with testicular cancer, his illness insurance helped to reduce stress during a very uncertain time.

Engineer Sam Tshabalala* believes that everyone should plan for the unexpected. This pragmatic approach gave the now 32-year-old a financial safety net, through his Old Mutual Illness insurance, when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer in May this year.

Accidental diagnosis:

“The doctors picked it up by mistake,” Sam says. He had gone to the hospital’s emergency room with severe abdominal pain. “I told the doctor it felt like being kicked in the nuts.” The doctor suspected a common infection but said that Sam should also get a full abdominal scan.

The scan detected a potential tumour on one of Sam’s testicles, and he was referred to a urologist.

“He gave me two options: wait and see or get a biopsy, which meant they would have to remove the entire testicle or a portion of it,” Sam recalls. “I reluctantly chose the second option because it would be safer in the long run, and I wanted to know sooner rather than later if it was indeed life threatening.”

It was an emotionally draining ordeal. “Some people, especially men, can be very immature about this type of cancer. They joke and misunderstand the impact. My doctor told me that as men get older, we should get annual check-ups – it can make a huge difference – but many men are too afraid and typically ignore the warning signs until it’s too late.”

Having the surgery was a gamble, Sam adds. “The doctor said that he would only know post-surgery if the tumour was cancerous.” But it turned out to be the right decision. The biopsy confirmed that it was cancer.

After the surgery, on his last day in the hospital, a CAT scan picked up that the cancer might have spread to his lymph nodes, and a subsequent PET scan confirmed this. It was a tremendous blow, but it also showed Sam that his decision to act was the right one.

On the road to recovery

Sam is currently undergoing chemotherapy with positive signs that he can expect to make a full recovery in a few months. “Chemotherapy was initially daunting and scary, but my anxiety around it dissipated after the first day. I realised it’s not as bad as my mind built it up to be.”  

It has, however, resulted in several side effects. “I used to have long hair and a thick beard, but my hair started falling out. My food preferences have also changed from loving lots of junk food to now having mostly veggies. Your body doesn’t feel like your own anymore,” he explains. “But these are all temporary. Knowing that I can still live life like normal and have a future is worth it. I’ve met others going through similar circumstances, and I consider myself one of the lucky ones because I acted early.”

Help when you need it

In addition to having medical aid and an emergency fund, Sam also had Old Mutual’s Illness insurance which paid him a lump sum after his cancer diagnosis.

“This payout has really reduced a lot of stress during these uncertain times. I’ve always planned for unexpected events, and I have an emergency fund, but even with the best medical aids, there are often payments that just aren’t covered, and these can tally up quite quickly over time, depleting funds fast.

My advice to both young and old alike: make sure you plan for the worst and hope for the best. Hopefully, you’ll never need to claim, but when your world is turned upside down, the simple past action of taking out a policy will give you so much relief. And always review your policies annually to ensure that you’re still sufficiently covered.”

“Getting your policies in place may initially be a little overwhelming and feel like work, but the day you need it, like I did, you won’t regret it!”

*Not his real name
Old Mutual Life Assurance Company (SA) Limited is a licensed FSP and Life Insurer.
What is Illness insurance from Old Mutual?

It’s cover that pays a tax-free single amount from R100 000 to R6 million (the cover amount you qualify for depends on your risk profile and the pay-out is a percentage based on the severity of the illness) if you suffer a severe illness such as cancer, a heart attack or a stroke.  You can use this to cover rehabilitation costs, travel expenses to treatment centres, modifications to your home or car and day-to-day expenses while taking time off from work to recover.  It includes a Cancer Enhancer that makes another payment of up to 25% of the cover amount if your quality of life is severely impacted by cancer and you can’t care for yourself.

Personalise your cover by adding additional benefits at an extra cost, like:

Top-up Benefit

Pays the full cover amount for specific illnesses.  It includes a Lifestyle Enhancer that matches the claim amount if your quality of life is severely impacted by an accidental brain injury, coma, heart attack, paralysis or a stroke and you can no longer care for yourself.

Returning Illness Benefit

Pays up to 50% of the cover amount for returning severe illnesses such as cancer, heart attack or stroke after the full cover amount has already been paid.

And you can get rewarded for being physically and financially fit through the Old Mutual Rewards programme.

Old Mutual Rewards (Pty) Ltd is a company in the Old Mutual Group. Terms, conditions and programme rules apply.

 To get Old Mutual Illness insurance today, speak to a financial adviser,
call 0860 60 60 60 or visit for more info and the T&Cs.

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