Marty Mardirosian

By proton-admin | December 26, 2018

“Now, when I needed insurance to cover the cost of my cancer treatment, my provider was unwilling to help.”

I live a very full, active life. By day, I’m a regional vice president of sales with a major corporation, but when I’m not working, I’m playing drums with old high school buddies in a band called M&R Rush. I’m known for my wild but precise chops. I’m a founding member – the “M” in M&R Rush – and my signature style is hard-hitting, on stage and off.

When I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, the rock star life took a back seat so I could focus on fighting cancer. Working for a global company, I was grateful for my employer-sponsored insurance plan. I assumed I’d be granted access to whatever care I needed but had no idea what would be in store. Before I decided on a treatment method, I conducted meticulous research online. I learned the difference between proton and photon therapies and even identified a few top proton centers to visit.

Following my search, my wife and I made the trip to Northwestern Medicine to meet the staff and learn even more about proton therapy. It was there that I learned that my insurance would likely not cover the treatment. I couldn’t believe it.

A call to my insurance company confirmed my fears. Instead of speaking to a doctor or a medical professional, a customer service representative told me definitively that my insurance would not cover proton therapy for prostate cancer.

On the drive home from Northwestern, my wife and I discussed the benefits of proton therapy and weighed them against the costs. Did we really want to pull from our retirement savings for this? We’d been married 39 years and have been diligently saving for the day we could finally retire. What was even more shocking to me was that I always paid my premiums without fail. Now, when I needed insurance to cover the cost of my cancer treatment, my provider was unwilling to help.

Without any other options, I took a gamble and signed up for a prostate protocol which gave me a 50/50 shot of being chosen for either proton therapy or traditional radiation. I won the prostate lottery and was chosen at random to receive proton therapy. Six months later, I was feeling great and my prostate-specific antigen level had dropped down to a healthy level, which my doctor had said could take a full year for men recovering from cancer treatment. It was a great sign and meant that I would be able to return to living a normal life.

My experience with prostate cancer has allowed me to educate colleagues, friends, and family members about both the specific type of cancer and also about the benefits of proton therapy. Both my father and grandfather had prostate cancer. Chances are good that my two sons will get it. I want protons to be a choice for them if and when they are diagnosed.

There’s a lot of information about prostate cancer and the different types of treatments that requires careful consideration. It is up to the individual to dig in and analyze the pros and cons in order to make a decision that is right for them. And my hope is that future patients won’t have to rely on a lottery to get coverage.