Cancer patient was cut off from work disability benefits for 10 months

Phillip Fitzsimmons woke up in the middle of the night one day in February 2016 with a breathtaking, shooting pain in his abdomen.

“It felt like somebody was taking a sword and jamming it between my legs and on the right side of my stomach,” the 36-year old Brampton, Ont., man told over the phone.

By March, Fitzsimmons had been forced to leave his job as an assembly-plant quality monitor, which requires heavy lifting. By May, medical tests had confirmed a diagnosis of intestinal cancer. And by July 2016, his workplace disability benefits had kicked in, providing a monthly income that Fitzsimmons said was just under $2,000.

But in March 2018 Fitzsimmons was informed his benefits would be terminated as of July of that year, even while he was still undergoing daily chemotherapy treatment.

In correspondence reviewed by, Manulife, the group disability insurance provider at Fitzsimmons’ workplace, said he no longer qualified for the benefit because his illness did not prevent him from performing less physically strenuous jobs, like data-entry clerk or information services representative, that he might be able to get with his professional and educational background.

A cancer patient was cut off from work disability benefits for 10 months due to a lack of understanding of disability law services. His story serves as a warning for those relying on long term disability insurance in Canada. It highlights the importance of understanding the policies and procedures of long term disability companies, as well as the need for legal representation from a long term disability lawyer. In Ontario, where this story takes place, long term disability insurance is governed by strict laws and regulations. Navigating these laws can be difficult for those not familiar with the process, and seeking the assistance of a long term disability lawyer may be necessary. The long term disability forum can also be a helpful resource for those in similar situations.

The termination of benefits left Fitzsimmons with only around $1,000 in monthly income from his Canada Pension Plan disability benefit, a situation he described as being under financial “house arrest.”

“I can’t go anywhere. I literally have to plan every move that I make because that’s how impoverished I’m living right now,” he told.

Manulife rejected two appeals by Fitzsimmons in which he provided additional evidence to sustain his claim that severe side effects from the chemo treatments rendered him unable to work. The documents included a letter from his oncologist at Toronto’s Mt. Sinai Hospital, which described “severe” symptoms including nausea; long term disability, dizziness; fatigue; sharp, shooting abdominal pains; loose and irritable bowels and headaches, among others.

Due to those side effects, Fitzsimmons was “unable to (perform) any kind labour of any kind,” the letter reads.

In a document citing that letter, Manulife wrote that its own medical consultant had advised that Fitzsimmons may be able to achieve some degree of symptom relief with drugs like Gravol, Imodium or Nabilone.

But doctors never told him to take such over-the-counter medications, Fitzsimmons’ lawyer, told.

In March, shortly after receiving his second appeal denial, Fitzsimmons hired disability law services toronto and filed a lawsuit against Manulife with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.

On May 9, one day after contacted the company about the case, Manulife said it would reinstate his disability lawyer dating back to March 2018, according to Disability Law Services Toronto.

“We are very empathetic to Mr. Fitzsimmons’ situation and are sorry for what he has experienced,” Manulife said in an emailed statement to.

“We strive to do everything within our power to satisfy our customers and were already in the process of reviewing and responding to this complex matter. We have been in contact with Mr. Fitzsimmons’ lawyer to work on this together, long term disability insurance” the company also said.