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The Force Is Strong With Cancer Survivors: Joining My Rebel Alliance

When I was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma, I envisioned myself in a galaxy far, far away. Just like any well-trained Jedi, I fought back when insurance denied my claim for doctor-recommended treatment.
BY Alyssa Castro
PUBLISHED June 21, 2019
When I was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma, I envisioned myself in a galaxy far, far away.

You see, I am a big “Star Wars” fan. What I love most is its story: A group of rebels bands together to take on an evil empire. An unlikely cast of characters – a princess, a Wookiee, a pilot, and a Jedi Knight – team up to fight the dark side by any means necessary. My own story played out similarly.

When I received my diagnosis, I had to fight both cancer and my insurer for access to the treatment my doctor recommended. Now that I'm cancer-free, I've joined my own “rebel alliance”, the Alliance for Proton Therapy Access, which is dedicated to fighting improper insurance denials and restoring the balance of power between patients and their insurers.

I wanted to join their fight because I was diagnosed with cancer at age 25. Initially, I received chemotherapy. As a side effect of the treatment, my white blood cell count became low. My oncologist gave me the option to pursue radiation, and a dear friend and fellow patient told me about proton therapy. On her suggestion, I visited Ackerman Cancer Center, where I found a cancer care team that valued my health and survival above all else. Together, we decided that I would receive proton therapy, a precise form of radiation that targets cancerous cells and limits radiation exposure to healthy tissues.

Unfortunately, my insurance company disagreed and denied me proton therapy treatment. Just like any well-trained Jedi, I fought back and when my doctor appealed my case, my insurer approved my access to proton therapy.

As we celebrated National Cancer Survivors' Day earlier this month, I've reflected on the journey that brought me here. I know all too well that fighting cancer is tough and tiresome and all a patient should have to worry about is the diagnosis, not an improper insurance denial.

Since working with my new rebel alliance, I've learned that, like me, many patients' insurers improperly delay and deny their access to doctor-recommended treatment. I credit a positive attitude and faith in God for getting me through both my cancer and insurance fights. I have tried to hold onto hope even in my darkest moments. It was the hardest Jedi mind trick I ever attempted but, in the end, I succeeded.

As a Jedi Master, I'm passing along this message to Padawans in the hopes that they understand they can beat cancer, too!
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