A New Zealand couple has been given a rare gift after a misdiagnosis of terminal cancer, but crushing debt has made the surprise a bittersweet one.
The pair, identified in the press only as Frank, 69, and Wilma, 65, planned to fulfill all the plans on Frank’s “bucket list.” After he was diagnosed with the illness he believed he had, the couple planned a lavish series of vacations after selling their home and even going into debt to finance the once-in-a-lifetime activities that they believed would be Frank’s swan song- all to be financed by what they believed would be a life insurance payment.
It all began back in May of 2010, when Frank was told he had just months left and the couple felt they “had nothing to lose” in the wake of the sobering diagnosis. The New Zealand Herald explains:
“He had an ultrasound done and fluid was taken from his pericardium – a tissue sac which surrounds the heart – for testing. A month later he was given the devastating news it was likely the cancer had returned to his heart and he only had a few months to live.”
After shedding their house, Frank and Wilma went traveling to Fiji and Brisbane. Frank quit his Auckland handyman business and gave away more than $30,000 worth of gear in preparation for what he believed were his final days. And the pair canceled their health insurance as well, thinking it would be of no use to them as Frank was, to their knowledge, not going to get better on his own.
Wilma says that the partying cost a total of $80,000, and explains:
“We had a good time. We spent too much money on food, going around New Zealand and then a business which fell down… What would you do in this situation? If he said jump I would jump … I was putting him first, whatever he wanted, he got. I’m short on my credit cards for $80,000 and the money we had left went on a business and that didn’t work out so we are broke.”
Wilma and Frank only learned of the mistake when a hospice worker told the couple that a home visit would be his last, as Frank’s cancer had not actually re-occurred despite his diagnosis.
A representative from the hospital responsible for the misdiagnosis explains:
“Occasionally where diagnosis is difficult and complicated by other medical conditions, like in this case, we can be wrong.”
The case is currently under investigation by local medical authorities.