On October 6th, 2015, Kate Weissman received the call that every cancer survivor remembers; you have stage 2B cervical cancer. Kate’s story is inspiring, courageous and frustrating. After 30 rounds of photon radiation and six rounds of chemotherapy treatments, six months later in the spring of 2016, Kate had a PET/CT scan and her doctors found the cervical cancer had spread to two of her paraaortic lymph nodes. She needed more cancer treatment.
After Kate’s surgery to remove her lymph nodes, Kate’s oncology team at Mass General Hospital, a Harvard Medicine teaching hospital in Boston, recommended proton radiation therapy. Her doctors wanted to protect nearby organs and unlike photon radiation therapy, the use of proton therapy is targeted; it spares healthy tissues and organs. As Kate was being staged for proton beam therapy her doctor entered the room and Kate describes her conversation; “My doctor told me we had an initial denial for coverage of the treatment by United Healthcare, but she would keep trying.” Both Kate and her doctor were hopeful.
As her second appeal started, Kate had to make a decision; should she start photon radiation and risk her organs or wait for insurance or somehow find $100k to pay for the proton treatments. As Kate received more rounds of chemotherapy she describes; “I was crying to the people at United Healthcare, begging to get my proton treatment approved.” Her second appeal was also denied.
So Kate took the matters in her own hands with the help of her physician team at Mass General and at Dana Farber Hospital in Boston. Six oncologists wrote a letter to United Healthcare appealing for Kate’s case and offering medical evidence that proton beam therapy was medically necessary. Kate also enlisted Senator Elizabeth Warren, and Senator Ed Markey’s help to advocate for her cancer treatment. The CFO where she worked also got involved. Yet after the six appeal to United Healthcare, Kate’s doctors lost the appeal.
It was urgent for Kate to begin proton therapy radiation treatment. So her parents offered to reach into their retirement funds and pay for the $100k of proton therapy treatments. They wired the money to the hospital so Kate could begin treatments. In Kate’s words; “I felt guilty to do this to my parents and awful that the insurance denied my case.” In total Kate received 55 rounds of radiation treatment and 17 rounds of chemotherapy. Kate is a true hero and fighter!
After her treatments, Kate is cancer free! She enjoys time at work in Public Relations and with her husband and friends and family. Kate is now the Congressional District 7 lead for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and is a Cervivor Ambassador, raising awareness of cervical cancer in her local community. Kate wanted to share her story as similar to Denise, she had to fight for coverage but unlike Denise’s story here, her case was ultimately denied.
You can also read more about Kate’s story as featured on CNN.