The Worst—and Best—Holiday Present

Posted by: Joseph Kuo | January 6, 2023

A few weeks ago, I got a call from Jim, a client of mine who is a successful attorney.

A few weeks ago, I got a call from Jim, a client of mine who is a successful attorney. Jim had a really great year last year. His firm enjoyed record revenues, and he’d started to expand his firm with new hires. With three beautiful kids and a wonderful wife, all seemed well. So when I saw his name pop up on the caller ID, I presumed he was calling to exchange holiday greetings.

The Jim I know is confident, optimistic, upbeat. However, the voice I heard was hesitant and shaky. Something was wrong. Jim informed me that his physician had referred him to see an oncologist. The test he was going to take with the oncologist was for a particularly aggressive form of prostate cancer.  

Jim has always appreciated the clarity he gains from our conversations. While there was no official diagnosis yet, Jim reached out to me because he wanted me to be his sounding board to help him think clearly. In the event of the worst case scenario, he wanted my help to make and carry out some very important decisions.

Covering All the Bases

First, we quickly reviewed insurance coverage for his family. Jim was relieved when I confirmed that we had already created an insurance safety net for him and his family. Aside from medical coverage, Jim also had a loss of income policy and enough life insurance coverage for his family. Even if Jim wasn’t able to work and needed care. Jim’s wife and kids would have financial security and be able to pay the bills while caring for Jim.  

With basic income covered, we decided to explore if there were any other policies that could help. We decided that a long term care policy would be worth adding should Jim need more advanced care. We also considered a home repair service plan. Jim was the primary person for fixing things around the house and this was an option that could help the family.

Awkward Elephants In the Room

With insurance covered, we pivoted to the awkward elephants in the room. 

Jim realized that a face-to-face conversation around estate planning would be very difficult for him and his family. Instead, he asked me to facilitate this process. I first started by reviewing the plan we worked on when Jim first signed on as my client. Since the plan was created, Jim had welcomed a third child into the family. We updated the plan as necessary to account for child number three and make sure all his current assets were accounted for.

Jim also wanted to update his medical directives and focus on his future quality of life. I facilitated the process between he and his attorney to create a “living will” document in which he conveyed the degree of medical treatment and accommodations to the quality of life he was willing to accept. His wife now had the living will as a guide if she needed to make medical decisions on Jim’s behalf.

The Best Christmas Gift To Himself and Family

By making his wishes known to his family, Jim relieved a huge amount of uncertainty for himself and his family. After our follow up meeting, Jim jokingly said, “This is probably the best Christmas gift I’ve ever given to them”. I was starting to hear the confident and optimistic Jim again.

Fortunately, Jim’s cancer was detected early and his prognosis is very good. With all his financial bases covered and a clear medical plan, he now has the peace of mind to fully devote all of his energies to his treatment and recovery. I am really thankful that my training in Motivational Interviewing and Grief Recovery have helped me support Jim during this stressful time. It’s often said that the best medicine against cancer is the patient’s own state of mind. Seeing Jim’s renewed focus on life, I know he’s got this.

Note: Jim’s name and some details were changed to protected his privacy.