“You know how it feels when you’re doing something you know you’re supposed to be doing?” asks Mindy Conklin. “This is it.”
That “something” is running Hitting Cancer Below the Belt (HCB2), a nonprofit Mindy founded in honor of her late husband, Rich, who passed away from colorectal cancer in 2011.
“It has become my passion,” Mindy says. “We go to underserved communities to provide screenings and colonoscopies to those who don’t have health insurance. We have waiting lists for people who need to get screened.”
Having life insurance helped make it possible for Mindy to pursue this new-found passion for fighting the disease that took her husband’s life — all in the hopes of preventing other families from experiencing what hers went through.
A prevalent disease
HCB2’s largest awareness and fundraising event is a run/walk called the Boxer Brief 5K. It’s held every June, and this year’s event drew more than 640 participants — a significant number for a community race. It’s indicative of colorectal cancer’s prevalence in the United States.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer among men and women in the U.S., and of cancers that affect both men and women, it is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S.1
One team at the race had more than 160 participants supporting a loved one who recently was diagnosed with colorectal cancer at a young age — a story very similar to Rich Conklin’s.
True to his character
Rich Conklin followed his internal compass, living according to his values and always putting his family first.
The Conklins did everything together and for each other. From family vacations, to coaching and attending extra-curricular activities — on top of full-time jobs — Rich and Mindy led busy yet fulfilling lives with their kids, Christian and Morgan.
Rich even turned down promotions for management roles to ensure he could protect his time and be there for his family.
“He was on the road 24-7,” explains Christian. “As soon as his job would end, he’d swing back home to pick us up and take us to practice, whether it was soccer, swimming or basketball.”
Rich’s compassion for people extended to the community, where he coached high school football.
“Every year, I get messages on the anniversary [of his death] from former players of his saying he’s the best coach they ever had,” Christian says.
Morgan adds, “It’s amazing to see the impact that he had on the people around him in his time. And I will say this for the rest of my life – I’d rather have 17 years with my dad and the relationship that I had with him, than a lifetime with anyone else.”
As it turned out, purchasing life insurance more than 20 years ago was one of the most family-focused decisions — with long-lasting effects — Rich would make.
Rich and Mindy first met Steve Fisher, a financial advisor, back in the early ‘90s. Steve had known Mindy through a fitness club and later met Rich. The two men hit it off and became good friends. One day Steve happened to ask Rich if he felt he had enough life insurance to protect his family.
“The thing about Rich that stuck out to me,” Steve says, “was he put family first, second and third. Looking into life insurance was another way he showed he loved his family and wanted to do right by them.”
Steve and Rich reviewed the Conklins’ financial picture and settled on a term life insurance policy that would cover the family’s financial needs if anything ever happened to Rich.
Fast forward to 2009, when Rich developed what felt like a side stitch that wouldn’t go away. A visit to the doctor led to a colonoscopy, which uncovered the diagnosis: stage four cancer with nine tumors on his liver. Chemotherapy ensued, but Mindy and Rich felt it was diminishing his quality of life.
They researched other options and learned about an alternative cancer treatment facility in Mexico, but it was expensive. At about the same time, Steve told the Conklins about an opportunity to convert their term life insurance policy into a permanent policy, and in the process, they could access an accelerated death benefit.
It was all Rich and Mindy needed to be able to go to Mexico. They stayed for a month and Rich became the healthiest he had been since his diagnosis. Most of all, it gave Rich and Mindy time to be together, come to grips with the reality of Rich’s illness — and gain some peace.
Life goes on
Eventually, Rich’s health declined.
“The hardest part wasn’t when he was gone,” Christian explains, “it was the 23 months prior, watching somebody who’s your superhero become simply a shell of himself.”
Steve visited Rich the day before he passed away. They recalculated the Conklins’ finances together to help ensure they were financially prepared for the future.
“I think having life insurance gave the family time to grieve and gave them peace of mind that — financially, at least — they had one less thing to worry about,” Steve says. “They could focus on getting through this together.”
Morgan adds, “Hearing Steve make that comment was really the first time I understood everything that [life insurance] has allowed us to do and allowed my mom to devote her life to spreading awareness so hopefully other people don’t have to go through what our family did.”
“Because of [life insurance], I am able to do what I want to do with Hitting Cancer Below the Belt,” Mindy says. “I can put the time and the energy that’s needed into building this organization without worrying about having enough income to keep the house, a basic car or putting my two kids through college. I’ve really been able to accomplish so much.”