Terminal Cancer Misdiagnosis Leads Couple to Throw Life Savings Away on Bucket List

After Frank was told that his lung cancer had spread to his heart and he had only months to live, he and his wife Wilma sold their house, canceled their health insurance, and put together a bucket list of things they wanted to do before death parted them.

But after spending all their money, plus several thousand dollars more, the Kiwi couple learned the bittersweet truth: Frank was just fine.

"I'm short on my credit cards for 80,000 [New Zealand dollars] and the money we had left went on a business and that didn't work out so we are broke," Wilma said.

In addition to letting their house go at a significant loss, taking expensive trips to Australia and Fiji, and going on lavish spending sprees, Frank also started smoking and drinking coffee — two things he quit after being told he had cancer.

The pair didn't worry about getting into debt because they figured Frank's life insurance would cover it. They returned to Wairoa to pass what they thought were their last days together. "If the pain got too bad I was going to kill myself, but the pain never came ... everyone was surprised I was still alive," Frank told the New Zealand Herald.

In fact, Frank's health was improving: In December 2011, nearly two years after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer, an ultrasound revealed that Frank was cancer-free.

But it would be another two months before a hospice worker finally informed the couple Frank was not going to die. "He said, 'I'm here for the last time'," Frank recalled, "and I said, 'Why'? He said, 'Well you don't have cancer'. We looked at each other and he said, 'Don't you know'?"

Dr. Rob Armstrong of Hawke's Bay Hospital blamed the bad diagnosis on "other medical conditions" that made correctly diagnosing Frank's cancer "difficult and complicated."

Though Dr. Armstrong says Frank is not entirely out of the woods yet, the couple are refusing medical care, saying "they've lost faith in the health system."

An investigation into the misdiagnosis has been launched.

[photo via Shutterstock]