Keelin McGee

By proton-admin | February 7, 2020

“Despite proton therapy being covered by my employer’s insurance policy, my insurance company denied coverage, and then denied my appeal.”


In the winter of 2017, I went to my primary care doctor on two separate occasions for a persistent dry cough and general lethargy. My doctor prescribed me antibiotics, but my symptoms never subsided. I soon developed severe radiating chest pain and itching on the sides of my body. Then I noticed a lump protruding above my left clavicle. I named the lump Larry, and within two weeks, it was the size of a golf ball. I returned to the doctor for a CT scan, which revealed numerous tumors growing in my chest and neck. I was sent to the ER because the tumor in my chest was affecting my breathing and beginning to send me into heart failure.

My final diagnosis was stage 2A Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at the age of 27. Just a day later, I began my first of eight chemotherapy infusions while still in the hospital.

A midway PET scan revealed the tumor was still sizeable, so radiation was recommended after I completed chemotherapy. Given my age and the location of the tumor, which overlapped my heart, lungs, breast tissues, and esophagus, two radiation oncologists recommended proton therapy to minimize damage to these critical organs.

Despite proton therapy being covered by my employer’s insurance policy, my insurance company denied coverage, and then denied my appeal. Fortunately, my employer’s self-covered insurance plan was able to overturn the denial in just a few days, and I was able to complete proton therapy at Cincinnati Children’s Proton Therapy Center. Now that I’m cancer-free, I credit proton therapy for extending the length and quality of my life compared to if I had received traditional radiation.

My cancer diagnosis and treatment, as well as my insurance denial for proton therapy, changed me forever. Because of my experience and the stories I heard from other young adults and proton patients, I am now pursuing a Masters of Applied Science in Global Health Planning and Management through Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. I want to do everything in my power to create better cancer awareness and control programs for patients in disadvantaged areas throughout the United States and around the world.