*This article is written in partnership with AIA Australia

Senior IT executive Liz Abrahams had enjoyed a “fantastic career trajectory” with ambitions to move onto corporate boards before she was dealt devastating news a year ago.

“I was actually diagnosed with advanced or stage four metastatic breast cancer,’’ she tells Professional Planner.

“It was a real surprise and the main thing that went through my mind at the time that I was diagnosed was ‘wow, this is life changing, how am I going to sustain my family and health and our lives?’

“The very first thing that comes to you, when you are the main breadwinner, is the financial support.”

Abrahams thanks her financial planner, Melbourne-based adviser Kurt Smyth, for including income protection insurance in her financial plan about 20 years ago, a policy which also allowed her to access insurer AIA’s rehabilitation programs along her cancer journey.

“It’s really hard to figure out how you’re going to go through treatment and everything that’s part of that, when you have to worry about money,’’ Abrahams says.

“The first thing that I’d say to anybody, thinking about advising their clients is… it meant everything. It really helped me, in my head, work through what was going to happen over the coming months.”

Days after her diagnosis, Abrahams started a “really challenging” treatment journey which included surgery and chemotherapy to curtail the cancer that had metastasized in her spine.

Payments from her income protection claim started a few months after diagnosis and in February 2022, she began with AIA Australia’s Wellness and Work Readiness cancer recovery program RESTORE CaRe.

She worked with an AIA appointed rehabilitation consultant who collaborated with her employer Infosys and medical providers to plan a way back to work five months before her return.

“I [initially] thought that I would be back at work in August of this year, and I’d be back full time,’’ Abrahams says.

“I had no comprehension of the side effects of pain and again, every level of support AIA has given me, has helped me face my medical situation and make the most of it and to engage my employer in a really constructive way.

“I knew I needed to make changes to my lifestyle and my health to manage the treatment, but I didn’t think I needed help in my head to be okay with managing the journey.”