Ashley Voils

By proton-admin | March 25, 2021

“[My doctors at the Mayo Clinic] told me that I would benefit from proton therapy, but they warned me that it would not be approved initially by my insurance company. They were right and that’s when I found out about the Alliance…Thankfully my insurance company reversed their decision and I switched to proton therapy for the last 20 of my 30 treatments.”


I was unfortunate enough to get a cancer diagnosis in the early days of COVID. At the time, I was 36 and healthy and just trying to get through the pandemic like everyone else.

I had had a cough for a while, and it persisted from late 2019 into early 2020. When my throat started to hurt, I went to urgent care and they gave me an antibiotic.

Strangely I had no other symptoms, but the coughing continued. I went to a second clinic in late March to have them give it another look. When that led nowhere, I reached out to our family doctor. By this point, of course, appointments were virtual. By now, it was early summer, and she prescribed me an inhaler and steroids.

The cough continued, so I finally met with a pulmonologist in June. The specialist did a chest x-ray and a CT scan, which showed some haziness they attributed to either a fungal or bacterial infection. But it was hard to get ahold of people in the office, so I switched to a new, highly recommended pulmonologist and I am convinced that he saved my life! I had a bronchoscopy in mid-July and was told on July 21 that I had cancer in my right lung and lymph nodes.

I met my oncologist two days later, who diagnosed me with stage 3B adenocarcinoma (aka lung cancer). The oncologist recommended chemo and x-ray radiation (no mention of proton therapy), but a friend’s husband, who is also a physician, suggested that I get a second opinion.

Amazingly I was able to get an appointment at the Mayo Clinic in October. They told me that I would benefit from proton therapy, but they warned me that it would not be approved initially by my insurance company. They were right and that’s when I found out about the Alliance.

I needed to start treatment, so I began with x-ray radiation sessions while I worked with the Alliance and others on a plan to fight the denial. Thankfully my insurance company reversed their decision (because of Dr. Owen and Peg Beyers’ aggressive work at Mayo!) and I switched to proton therapy for the last 20 of my 30 treatments.

I’m doing well, and per my PET scan this month, I’m currently showing no signs of cancer. I know that the radiation was a key factor and I am so grateful to have been able to have such terrific treatment. I am committed to doing what I can to make sure others don’t have to go through the stress I endured. I am thankful for people like Dr. Owen, Peg, and groups like the Alliance for helping patients saddled with this challenge.