Patients must battle more than cancer for their lives

To The Editor:
In 2011, I lost 70 percent of the hearing in my left ear due to multiple tumors in my brain. I had surgery to remove one tumor that was the size of a golf ball and then waited to see if the tumors continued to grow. After six months, an MRI revealed the tumor had grown back and my doctor recommended radiation to the area. 

Originally, I was recommended for gamma knife radiation, but after speaking to specialists, they said my case was too high-risk and instead recommended proton therapy. Proton therapy lowered the risk of recurrent tumors in my brain and significantly decreased side effects to the healthy parts of my brain.

My proton therapy treatment was relatively easy. I was able to still work and live a normal life. The tumors are continuing to shrink and I have 100 percent of my hearing back in my left ear.

Thankfully, my experience receiving insurance coverage only required one letter of petition, but many Oklahoma cancer patients have faced multiple rounds of denials on top of already fighting the clock to start treatment. Insurance companies that used to cover proton therapy are now requiring it meet even higher levels of testing than any other radiation therapies they cover.

All Oklahomans deserve to have access and coverage to the best treatment option for them, which is available in our state. The last thing a cancer patient and their family need to worry about is how their doctor- recommended treatment is going to be covered. Thankfully state Representative Marian Cooksey and a number of her colleagues introduced House Bill 1515 to the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

 This bill would mean Oklahoma doctors, not insurance companies, would make treatment decisions with their patients. It will keep insurance companies from singling out proton therapy and requiring higher levels of testing than needed for any other radiation treatments. Additionally, it will help Oklahoma cancer patients receive the doctor-recommended radiation treatments necessary for their recovery and long-term health.

I respectfully ask state lawmakers to listen to their constituents who pay ever higher insurance premiums only to be denied care when cancer strikes.

Please join me in the battle against inadequate cancer treatment coverage and help make a positive change in the lives of many Oklahomans who deserve to focus on fighting their cancer, not their insurance company. It is time to contact your state representative and senator, and ask them to support House Bill 1515.

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