You Are Now Uninsurable!

These are the words Tom, my insurance broker and consultant said to me a month or so ago when I told him I had Prostate Cancer. Not too long previously I had reduced my life cover and the delay before I can claim on my income protection insurance from 2 to 3 months off work, against his advice I must admit.


By David Fletcher; Dominion

I have spent a fortune on Life Insurance and Income Protection Insurance premiums over the years and never once made a claim. We often debated whether we should drop them and thought about how much money we would have saved if we had put the same amount of money in the bank.

It turns out that there is some cover that I may be able to access from the Income Protection Insurance and I am working through a pile of forms at the moment to prepare a claim. I wouldn’t have known about this cover if it wasn’t for my broker Tom Fox of Canopy Group, for which my sincere thanks.

So far the gap between what Southern Cross has paid and my cancer related expenses is probably in the region of $15,000. A pittance compared to what some people spend on more difficult cancers. Of course I don’t know what’s ahead. I have a little sick leave up my sleeve so if I find myself feeling too tired or unwell to work as a consequence of the radiation treatment, I’m OK, but I’d hate to think of what my situation would be like if I didn’t have my insurances.

So here’s the thing. Insurance is a grudge purchase. We don’t expect to claim and the insurance companies hope we won’t. That’s how they make money and that’s why as you get older the premiums keep going up in proportion to the risk. It’s often the first thing to go when times are tough.

We do have public health, but chances are if I had to rely on it, I would be on a waiting list while the tumors grow and the likelihood of being able to get treatment outside of my work hours is probably next to zero in which case my job could have been at risk. I must say my employer has been fantastic and very supportive which is awesome, but financially its my burden.

I cannot get buy any new insurance, I can’t ever increase my cover. So here’s another piece of unsolicited advice from me:

If you are in your 50’s (and I have lost friends much younger from cancer and other conditions) get yourself some cover before you have the PSA test, so that you can honestly say that you have no known conditions, because you don’t. As soon as it is on record with your GP or specialist that you have cancer, it’s too late.

My Prostate Cancer Might Save Other Lives

This could be boring, so stop now if you don’t want details, but after this if you don’t mind. So far since I wrote my I have Prostate Cancer blog, 4 people have said they will now go and get PSA tests. If I can help one person to catch it early like I did, then going public on this would be a huge success. It’s just a simple blood test.

Many thanks to those of you who left me messages of support on my various social media pages. It really is appreciated. Guys, you don’t need to have the digit inserted in most cases. In my case that did nothing other than make my sphincter smart for 10 minutes. What is going to save my life is the fact that I had multiple tests and each test the PSA level was higher than the previous one. I am still within the level that is considered unlikely to have tumors and I have 4 or 5.

winningWhen I first found out I had cancer I read all the material, visited Dr Google, rang the cancer society for info and bought a book Winning the Battle Against Prostate Cancer, which came highly recommended. But I wouldn’t recommend any of them unless you need to. It’s pretty ugly reading about the possible side effects of the treatments. I joined a cancer community, which is cool, but not really for me.

Then I did my best to put it out of my mind until I had to think about it, which is now. So while I have been on active surveillance, other than tests and biopsies, I did my best to put it out of my mind. No point in dwelling on it any more than you need to.

So this blog is mostly a journaling exercise on my part to help me work through my trip to remission. If it helps other people, awesome, if no one reads it, that’s cool too.

So the next blogs will be about my journey. It’s probably of most interest to people who first find out they have cancer and perhaps to those who want to know how to relate to someone who has this condition.

It’s kind of interesting because I don’t want this to define me, I have more important things in my life like music, family and a job I am passionate about. I’m not after attention or sympathy. The journaling may be a catharsis of sorts and may answer questions for some people. I’m open to questions or comments and all opinions and experiences are mine. I’m not a doctor. Don’t rely on me for any medical advice other than if you are a male over 50, IMHO start getting PSA tests with your annual check up.

I have Prostate Cancer


HOPE: Taken in the 2013 Relay For Life when I did my first marathon distance (took me almost the whole 24 hours!)

I was of two minds as to whether to share this, but it is one way of telling my friends, readers, colleagues and associates without having to tell the same story to everyone over and over. It’s not an easy subject to talk about. I’m not comfortable telling it and I know other people find it awkward to know what to say to me, so this is an easy option for all of us. Of course most don’t know yet because it was only a couple of weeks ago that I found out that it is serious.

Technically I shouldn’t know that I have cancer. I only know because my wife kept pushing me because of the health advertising and the fact that we have a huge number of people in New Zealand who have it.

I went to the doctor and said I believe there is a PSA blood test I can get and he firmly prompted me up onto the medical bed in his surgery and told me to drop my pants for the digit test. I didn’t want to but had complied before I even realized what was happening. I’ll spare you the details, other than that my virgin sphincter was sore and uncomfortable for a little while. Since that time I’ve become accustomed to being poked and prodded by strangers and am getting used to it. I know on the scale of 1 to 10 of things people endure, this doesn’t even get off the starting blocks. For now anyway.

The main point of this post is that my PSA at the time was 3.2. The doctor had been monitoring it in blood tests previously and whilst it was within normal levels, it had been increasing every test, always up. So we agreed at I should go and see a urologist.

I had a biopsy about a year ago and they found a few small malignant low grade tumors and I opted for active surveillance. I should have had another one 6 months ago but we seemed to miss each other. I tried eating very expensive sea cucumber TBL12, which didn’t agree with me very much in taste and made me feel queasy, but it was worth a try. Some people swear by it.  I also tried Pomi-T, a herbal extract approved by the FDA, but when I had another biopsy in October I was up to 4-5 tumors, still low grade but growing quickly.

So here’s the thing. There are a lot of stories and debates about whether you should be tested. Many people say that you’d be better off not knowing,  but if I hadn’t, in another  year I would probably be in a significantly worse situation and I’d still be in my 50’s. I might think differently if I was in my 70’s or 80’s.

I was keen to continue active surveillance which means more biopsies and tests, because most of the time I wouldn’t be thinking about it (but you do). The specialists strongly urged me to reconsider and having read extensively and asked lots of questions, I have opted for external beam radiation. If anyone wants to know why, I’m happy to explain my rationale, especially if you are going through the same process. Ultimately it’s a personal decision. They all have nasty side effects, but it has to do with age and lifestyle. I start radiation on 7 December for 8 weeks.

This particular blog is going to focus on whatever I feel like writing about, which is not business. It has always been my soapbox. So if you want more about technology, location based services and futurism, I suggest you ignore this one and follow me at SoLoMo Consulting and The Future Diaries.

The one hope I have from this, besides helping me process my feelings through this time, is that someone who was resisting the urge to get tested might give it a go. Already I know of one person who has been putting it off for years has made a doctor’s appointment. I read some statistics that said PSA tests have false positives and only 1 in a large number of people tested actually end up having cancer. Therefore getting tested is a waste of time.

So I’m that one in a large number whose life will be saved through getting checked out, despite having no symptoms or problems. I like living. I haven’t achieved everything I want to achieve in my work, haven’t seen all of the world and enjoyed lots of special family moments yet to come. I have music and songs to write and perform. I have many more trips to make around the sun. I still have a big bucket list.



Hunt for Kiwis after powerful Nepal earthquake kills more than 1300 – National – NZ Herald News

Luigi Cappel:

We have so much experience now in New Zealand in everything from Search and Rescue to location based web services and apps to help in these circumstances. I hope that our Government will make it easy for those with experience, particularly from the Christchurch earthquakes, to help. We have a unique opportunity to help our Nepalese friends with skills and end experience (as well as obviously money).

Originally posted on SoLoMo Consulting:

More than 1300 people across four countries have been killed after a powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal causing massive damage in the country’s capital. – New Zealand Herald


New Zealand has had a long relationship with Nepal, ever since Sir Edmund Hillary reached the top of Mt Everest. I remember in my youth having a school presentation when they were collecting money to build schools and hospitals. I remember blowing a Sherpa alpine horn. In later years several friends went to Nepal, some to climb, some to enjoy the alpine tourism.

In previous blogs I have asked about how ready we are for earthquakes and we have learned a lot

It was great to read that Google came to the party straight away with their Person Finder application which was one of the excellent outcomes of the Christchurch earthquakes.There have since been many more location…

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Merge Like a Zip – How To Get People to Let You In

Luigi Cappel:

This could have easily gone into either of my blogs, being also a bit of a soapbox. I’m sure you’ll find this useful.

Originally posted on SoLoMo Consulting:

One of the big problems getting on the motorway, especially during rush hour is merging like a zip. People don’t want to let you in when you do it right and then they let people force their way in, or sometimes you have no ch0ice unless you want a visit to the panel-beater and waste a whole lot of time even if you are in the right.

FocusI have noticed but not thought about the fact, as raised by writer Mike Robbins. In this excellent book he talks about how powerful eye contact is.

Next time someone pushes into your lane, halfway down the onramp, look over at them. I’ll bet they are not making eye contact. They will be looking straight ahead avoiding your eyes at all cost, because they know they are not following the rules, they just want to get on in a hurry. They don’t seem…

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Auckland Kindle Buyers at Dick Smith Beware if You Want to Read Library Books

I have a Kindle, the latest model WiFi 4GB which I bought from Amazon, cheaper than I could buy it locally, which sort of goes to the story I posted this morning about retailers who struggle to cope with change in the way people buy products, i.e. competing with online sales. My wife and I both have iPads, but for reading on long trips or after a day on the computer, I really like the Paperwhite because it isn’t back-lit, so doesn’t cause eye strain.

I am also a happy customer of Auckland Libraries, mostly downloading audio books which I listen to while driving or doing chores like mowing the lawn.

My wife decided after seeing myself and one of our children getting great value from our Kindles, that she would like one too. With the Auckland libraries also having an excellent collection of digital eBooks, I thought this would be a great opportunity for us to get real value, so I went to Dick Smith Electronics in downtown Auckland to see if it was worth buying locally.

Kindle DSEJust inside the door is a Point of Sale unit with a Kindle Paperwhite, same model I own and an old model original Kindle Fire (which I understand was superseded quite a long time ago). I looked at the feature display sheet and it says that Kindles including the Paperwhite will allow you to read public library books. Now that isn’t strictly wrong because I know someone who reads them, but they are from Australian libraries. I wanted to confirm whether I could download eBooks from the Auckland libraries onto a Paperwhite. The salesman couldn’t tell me, he was going to check for me, but couldn’t confirm anything and ended up with another client while I went on my iPad to look it up. I asked him to check it out for me. Obviously it was confusing because their POS clearly said I could read library books. When he couldn’t give me an answer, I asked who could. He said that the merchandisers were the people who dealt with the POS so I asked if I could talk to them. That wasn’t possible, so I asked who the distributor was that they worked for. He said they are actually Dick Smith Electronics staff!

Here’s what I found on the Auckland Libraries website. Auckland LibrarySo, given that I wanted to buy a Kindle for my wife, I asked the sales person, when he eventually returned to me to let me see a Kindle Fire to find out whether it would be better on the eye that the iPad, because I didn’t want to buy the Paperwhite at $179 if it couldn’t download the library eBooks.

The sales person said he was sorry, but he couldn’t show me a Kindle Fire because they didn’t have one out of the box; and he couldn’t open a new one because then it wouldn’t be new. I told him in that case he had lost a sale because I wasn’t going to buy one if I couldn’t try it out and see if it was fit for purpose. It’s hard to be a customer at Dick Smith Electronics. I left the store without a purchase. I tweeted that they had lost a sale.

In hindsight I could have bought one because under the Sale of Goods Act, if it wasn’t fit for the purpose I had described to the sales person, I could have brought it back for a full refund. He could have even suggested that, but he didn’t. I also live about 12km from the store and it would be a real hassle if I had to take it back. I hate to think what the customer service level would be for a return after that experience. So my wife still doesn’t have a Kindle.

DSEI subsequently got a Twitter message from Dick Smith Customer Service saying that someone would give me a ring within 2 working days. As you can see, that was just over 2 weeks ago. I haven’t had a call or a message (in case I missed one) since.

So I’m probably going to buy another Paper-white Kindle from Amazon for US119 rather than NZ$179 or $199 depending on where you look, locally from Dick Smith and accept that we can’t download library books. We can buy books on one Kindle and share them with the other and Amazon also have subscription services which are pretty cool. I guess ultimately Dick Smith isn’t local anyway, they are Australian owned, I think, well listed anyway.

My real concern is, if you live in Auckland and you bought a Kindle Paperwhite because you read the POS which says you can read library books, you will find yourself disappointed. I have pointed it out to Dick Smith via Twitter, and the photo above saying you can, was taken in their store in downtown Auckland yesterday, so their in-store marketing hasn’t changed since I first brought it too their attention more than 2 weeks ago.

I did eventually talk to a librarian who confirmed that you cannot download and read library books from any Auckland libraries on a Kindle Paperwhite. It appears the reason you can ‘on some Kindle Fire’s’ is in fact because they are Android Tablets.

So what do you think. Does it help clarify why I sometimes buy things offshore instead of in local stores? Sometimes it’s actually easier.

Retailer Shuts Shop – Why Retailers Fail

I was sad to read a story in my local newspaper, North Shore Times about a Glenfield hardware store McPherson’s Hammer Hardware, which is going to close in a couple of months. Firstly I as going to share a link with you, but the aforementioned newspaper has a system that requires you sign up to their digital version if you want to share a story, and likewise, probably if you want to read from a link. I do not provide links for my readers to sites like that.

I used to live in Glenfield and visit this story and I remember asking them how they stay in business. The owner, John MacPherson told me it was about community, having those little things that the big stores make you buy in bulk, advice on how to do things, friendly service, remembering people’s names, the little things that come with community retail.

The newspaper story goes on to quote that he has probably hasn’t been making a profit for 6-7 years, but hung in there. He points out that the DIY super-stores and Internet have changed the game and that even the major stores/chains suffer from sluggish consumer spending.

He’s not wrong, but the key word is change. I love the world of retail, I used to have the privilege go to the NRF in New York and FMI Connect in Chicago and bring back ideas to write about in retail magazines, share with my resellers and speak about at conferences around the world. This was important because many of our retailers couldn’t afford to go to those conferences, but learning new ideas, particularly from people who have proven experience, is how business evolves.

It doesn’t really matter what business you are in, you have to evolve to meet the demands and opportunities presented as society evolves. As John said in the North Shore Times article, “In Glenfield we had a haberdashery (incorrectly spelled in the newspaper, I had to look it up to find out what it was), greengrocer, butcher, it was a great mix”. It went on to say they were boom times.

So here’s the thing, it is still boom times for those businesses that want to keep up with the times. The problem that retailers used to tell me was that they didn’t have time to keep up with the times. They were too busy starting early in the morning cleaning the shop, doing stock takes, placing and chasing orders, talking to merchandising reps, ringing customers to say their widget had arrived, preparing the float and a myriad of other things. In hindsight, those retailers, from John McPherson’s Hammer Hardware in Glenfield, through to Borders and other retailers should have found the time to look at how some businesses were thriving, while others weren’t.

When they went on their holidays, they could have combined them with visits to businesses and conferences that showed how some retailers were managing in the new world of mobile and tablet, of connected customers. They could have seen new products that aren’t available in NZ, they could have combined bricks and mortar with online themselves. I appreciate how hard it is to run a business, I have run several businesses over the years and worked in companies from small to multinational and the common thread is that those who looked ahead continue to do well, those who looked to their original training and just repeated what they had learned, which may have been best practice in the 70’s or whenever, will have done well for a while, but aren’t there any more.

People still want to have experiential retail, they still want to see and touch, ask questions, they even want to see people like John McPherson stick around and stay in business, but they can’t advise him on what to do to stay in business and get back into the black.It’s tough, but the time to get ahead in business is when you are ahead and you have the resources to go and do some training, bring in a consultant, go attend a conference. I used to speak regularly at retail conferences in New Zealand and what was really frustrating was that the people attending were those that needed it the least, because they were looking ahead and staying up with the times. The ones that needed it the most didn’t go, probably didn’t read the specialist trade magazines, ask their suppliers for knowledge or go to the trade shows. They were too busy. Now they are either out of business or heading out. Is it too late, not necessarily, but it will be much harder, even to change the mindset. When things get tough, many go even farther back into doing what they used to do, even doing it harder. That’s not the answer.

Back when business was booming for people like John McPherson, Bob Dylan was singing The Times They are a Changing. He was so right. “You better start swimming or you’ll sink like a stone.” Listen to the lyrics, they are prophetic. But this is no different to 200 year ago. The times are always changing.

We are still buying all the things we used to buy and more. Some business models have been and gone, but others are growing in a big way. We are still a DIY country, that’s why we have the mega stores, but there is still room for specialists, room to be a community and have community involvement in business, there are so many opportunities. Whether it is classes at the back of the store teaching people how to do things, or a new section selling 3D printers and teaching kids how to make things, using location based mobile services to find people who are looking for what you have, supplementing your business by selling items you can’t afford to stock, online.

I’ll finish with a question. Why is it that I can buy a set of my favorite guitar strings online from a retailer in the USA, 75% cheaper than the same product in New Zealand? The local retailer will say that’s because the guy in the USA doesn’t have a shop to run. But the fact is they do, Elderly Instruments has a bricks and mortar store in Lansing, Michigan, they have bands playing in it, they have workshops for musicians, they just supplement that with online sales. I recently contacted them because I couldn’t get help from local retailers to fix a broken part on my Dobro. I had personal emails, just the same service that John provides in his hardware store and I’ve managed to repair it myself with the parts they sold me. Doing business with them was so easy. If I lived in Michigan, I would go and by from their store and I’d even be prepared to pay a little more, heck I’d buy more anyway just because I like doing business with them and they like what they do and know what they are talking about.

So I’ll finish on a saying that is one that has killed many a good retail business. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Have a look around you right now and ask yourself how many of the things you take for granted would be there if everyone had said that back in 1970, let alone 1870?