At about 07:30 this morning, just as I was about to get into the shower, there was a loud bang on the front door. Cursing, I quickly grabbed a towel and ran down the stairs to see what was going on. I unlocked, opened up and cautiously peered out from behind the door - after all, who wants to be confronted at that time of the morning by a semi-naked man? It was the postman, of course, clutching a small plastic envelope. I scrawled my signature approximately on his little digital screen and took the delivery. I opened it up, and was stunned by what I saw: it was short letter with a cheque stapled to the bottom.
The cheque was made out to a sum that equates to about 3.5 years salary.
My mind flashed back about five or six years, and I could see myself flicking through the brochure that came with my critical illness insurance. Let's look down the list of conditions and see what I could maybe tolerate in order to get a payout: obviously you don't want something nasty like cancer, but could I lose a limb? An eye? All good fun, and then I filed the paperwork away and thought nothing more of it. Who really thinks that there may come a time when they will be diagnosed with one of the conditions on that list? Who would really want to be?
To be honest, I was only dimly aware that you might be well advised to take out life and critical illness insurance when you take out a mortgage. Getting the mortgage itself was a big enough step for me. Luckily for me, I was well advised, and my very diligent and professional financial advisor made sure that, as well as getting an excellent deal on our mortgage, we signed all the necessary paperwork and got ourselves properly covered. In fact, I'm not sure I can ever thank LB enough for his foresight.
....And now my critical illness policy has paid out. Without any great fuss or fanfare, my insurance company has paid up the full amount less than a month after they received my claim form, at a stroke making all the inconvenience of that lumbar puncture worth the bother.
I stared at the cheque for a few minutes. Then I sat down and stared at it some more.
Then I went to work.
Then I came home from work and after a game of football and I stared at it again.
That's quite a lot of money.
That money is not consolation or compensation for having multiple sclerosis, but it does offer me financial security. More than that: it presents me with some new options and opens up some interesting choices. I have MS, but at the moment I'm still relatively unaffected. Who knows what will happen tomorrow, or in a year's time, or in five years time.... that's was true before my diagnosis, but somehow the present feels all the more precious to me. Every mile that I run, every game of football that I play (even ones where I feel rubbish, as I did tonight)... it all feels like something to be cherished because I really don't know how long I will be able to play. I'm not worried about my future, really. Good job really, as there's not a damn thing I can do about it. I might be one of the 'lucky' MS sufferers who are barely affected by the condition throughout their lives. I might not be. No one can tell and there's not much point worrying about it. I do wonder, however, if I really want to spend my the bulk of my time sat at a desk doing a job that is hardly the passion of my life.
Surely there are much better things I should be doing with my life? I want to go to Australia again; I want to go to New Zealand; I want to go back to South America; I want to travel in Africa and to go on a walking safari; I want to learn how to scuba dive; I want to see whales and dolphins and sharks; I want to see lions and tigers and elephants; I want to travel around the great cities of Europe and to see the works of the Great Masters and the soaring cathedrals. There are so many better things I could be doing than sitting at my desk as a tiny cog in the wheels of a big company. Perhaps this money is my opportunity to get out and do some of those things whilst I still can.
The big question, I suppose, is whether or not I am brave enough to seize that opportunity.