In the summer of 2014 Orlando Ali, Sr. – my father – the managing director of a Desjardins Financial Security Independent Network financial centre got the news that everyone dreads hearing; he had cancer. Now, this wasn’t a huge surprise because Orlando comes from a huge family of nine siblings; and between both his parents, cousins, aunts and uncles, there have been enough cancer scares to fill a ward in a hospital. What was surprising was the type of cancer.

A few months before, my father felt a small pea-sized lump on his chest. So, obviously since men don’t get diagnosed with breast cancer, he didn’t think anything of it. A few months pass, and what he first assumed was a cyst was not going away so he decided to see a doctor.

The doctor confirmed his suspicions. And Orlando learned that although breast cancer in men is rare – less than one percent of all breast cancers are in men1 – it is possible. Since it is rare, it can often go unnoticed or misdiagnosed because doctors are not really looking for it. Coincidently, my father’s sister was just diagnosed with the exact same type of cancer a year earlier.

Orlando considers the following months to be the most difficult and painful of his life due to the chemotherapy treatment and its side-effects, but it was also a period where profound support came from family and friends. Their compassion and care gave him the strength he needed to get through his treatments. The support also came through the fantastic work of the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, which gave him all the information he needed, the life-saving medical procedures and companionship.

On top of the emotional and physical pain he went through, there was also a financial and professional burden, as well. Orlando is a successful entrepreneur who manages his own Desjardins Financial Security Independent Network office in Toronto’s west end. Ask anyone who has ever gone through chemotherapy and they will tell you how difficult it is to work during this time – let alone run your own business. With a career in the insurance industry, Orlando is passionate about the importance of financial protection through insurance, which explains his foresight in purchasing a critical illness insurance policy. The policy paid him a tax-free lump sum that covered his additional expenses giving him peace of mind while he focused on getting better.

Having seen the pain and suffering my father experienced during a difficult health crisis, I have also become passionate about the importance of critical illness insurance.

A Cancer Survivor’s Story – in his own words 

What was it like when you were first diagnosed?

Obviously, I was very surprised and I didn’t know what to expect going forward. But, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy.

Was the treatment difficult to endure?

Yes, chemotherapy was very painful and it took a lot out of me, but luckily I had the support of my wife who took time off of work to stay home to help me get through it. Also, the treatment I received from the Princess Margaret Cancer Center was remarkable. They were friendly, extremely knowledgeable and helped me along the entire process. My specialist, Dr. McCready was as wonderful a doctor as I could have ever hoped for to guide me through this process.

You had funds from a critical illness insurance policy that you were able to use; was it necessary?

The part of cancer treatment that doesn’t get talked about enough is the financial impact that it has on patients and family caregivers, too. Obviously, there is the time off of work that is required, and not everyone is lucky enough to have a benefits plan that will help them with income replacement, but there are also the other expenses that do not ever get considered. Parking in downtown Toronto can add up. Then, I had to change my diet, and between the organic food and the vitamins I was taking, my grocery bills were increasing. Also since my wife took a leave of absence from work to help out during my treatment there was also the loss of her income.

So, the critical illness insurance policy was important?

Of course. Luckily, I have been working my entire life and my wife has been as well, so we had savings. But, we’re in our sixties so the last thing we would want to do is use our retirement savings. The thing that people need to understand is that your monthly bills; the condo fees, property tax, food bills, credit card… they don’t care that you have cancer and they still need to get paid. I received a cheque from Desjardins Insurance 2 after 30 days from date of diagnosis: the money helped with all of my expenses and not force us to dig into our savings.

Did the payment cover all your costs?

Yes, I had enough money for the bills with some left over, and it really came at a time when I needed it the most. Not everyone is so lucky.

What you did with the remaining money?

There are no limitations on its use, so I used the remaining money from my critical illness insurance policy to take my wife, six children and six grandchildren on a Disney cruise to thank them for being a supportive family during my treatment.

I will never forget the looks on my grandchildren’s faces on the cruise; enjoying all the activities and seeing all the Disney characters. It was my reward for enduring the pain and struggling associated with the illness. Without my policy, I never would have been able to afford to do something like this. I will never forget that very special family vacation.

Lastly, what would you say to anyone who might be considering a critical illness insurance policy or who has never put any thought to it at all?

Many people have life insurance, which is great, but people don’t really think about having insurance to help them while they are alive. I will tell you, cancer is not something that only happens to other people; it doesn’t discriminate. I read on the Canadian Cancer Society’s website that something like two in five people will be diagnosed. I believe it. I went through it. It can happen to you, so give yourself and your family more care options so you can focus on getting better rather than worrying about bills. It makes a difference!


Orlando Ali, Jr.

Desjardins Financial Security Independent Network

Director of Sales and Business Development

Life and Health Insurance Advisor

And proud son of a cancer survivor

Phone: (416) 743-1239 x 232


  1. For more information please visit this link
  2. All policies which are approved and settled that have been applied for between April 1stand December 31st 2017.
  3. Desjardins Insurance refers to Desjardins Financial Security Life Assurance Company, a provider of life and health insurance and retirement savings products.