Just two years ago my wife and I sat in the office of a world famous surgeon at one of the nation’s most prestigious hospitals. As we stared into the face of this sharp, young physician, we felt inspired and hopeful. The doctor exuded confidence despite the fact that he told us that the type of cancer I was fighting was especially deadly – on average only 15% of patients following traditional surgical approaches lived five years after surgery. His institution, the world famous Johns Hopkins University Hospital, had developed a special treatment protocol which was years ahead of most domestic hospitals. Their techniques promised to quadruple my survival prospects.
This treatment required massive doses of chemo therapy, radiation, multiple surgeries, and post surgical chemo. After conferring with our doctors, we decided to go with the Johns Hopkins approach. The drive to the hospital was a great deal farther than other local hospitals, but we made the commitment because of the caliber of treatment we knew we would receive at the hospital.
The biggest shock of the entire process was that we received a large bill for the first minor preparatory surgical treatment- insertion of a special feeding tube, and a rare 24 hour chemo delivery system. The first chemo treatments were called “experimental” and bill of nearly $10,000 was racked up in less than two weeks by the preliminary procedures. There was a constant tug of war between us and the insurance company. The insurance company preferred local doctors and local tests. Hopkins, seemingly impervious to the insurance company’s complaints assigned a team of five doctors to manage my case, because of several complications I experienced in the course of treatment. Eventually the insurance company paid for all my tests, treatments, and procedures. The fact that I actually just cheated death on two occasions prior to the major surgery was the defining factor of the treatment protocol.
Today (eighteen months after surgery) I am cancer free. I am glad I worked with Johns Hopkins Hospital. I am convinced that their superior care has contributed to my survival. The cost of this new lease on life was approximately $100,000 of unexpected personal costs beyond traditional medical costs. These numbers do not include personal income loss due to illness. Was it worth the price? You better believe it was. I am thankful to be alive.
Recently, a lady at my health club stopped me to enquire about my doctors and the treatment I had received. Her father, who lives in England (under universal health care), has the same type of cancer but was essentially sent home to die. She is attempting to get my doctor to consult with his physicians overseas.
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.