CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) - A Chesapeake man is fighting two battles: One with cancer and the other with his insurance company over treatment coverage.
Jonathan Derrick of Chesapeake said he has always had health insurance, never missed a payment and never had to use it. Now, when he needs insurance coverage the most, he said he feels as if the insurance company could cost him his life.
"When you picture this, this is how we are supposed to be," said Kelli Derrick as she flipped through a photo album.
A wedding in Vegas, followed by two young boys and a business of their own -- for Kelli and Jonathan, life couldn't get better.
"We were so happy," Kelli added.
But It's amazing how fast things can change.
"There were little signs here or there," Kelli said. "He would say he had abdominal pain, and of course as a wife I would be like 'suck it up or call the doctor.'"
That was only six months ago, six months they'll never forget.
"It's a terrible word, especially for a 35-year-old with no history of it," Jonathan added. "I never had a clue it would happen to me."
A trip to the doctor revealed Jonathan was suffering from rectal cancer. It also moved into his liver.
"I don't want to give up," Jonathan said. "There's too much to live for."
Optima Health, the couple's insurance provider, sent Jonathan to several doctors around the area. He went through radiation and chemo, but nothing worked.
"Now he's on no treatment because his body's not responding to treatment," Kelli added.
But then a breakthrough: one of the doctors they were seeing through Optima suggested an innovative procedure called "hepatic arterial infusion," a process that could directly fight his cancer.
The doctor sent Optima a letter saying Jonathan's prognosis is grim and he should go to New York's Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center that specializes in the procedure. The letter said Sloan-Kettering has recourses that aren't available any where in Virginia. Optima approved Derrick to go to New York for a second opinion.
"I feel like New York is our chance for me to live," Jonathan said.
During the trip, doctor's at Sloan-Kettering set up surgery for July 2.
"Then, four days later, we get a call from Optima saying 'sorry we denied Sloan-Kettering, because we've found a doctor at UVA that performs the exact same procedure'," Kelli said.
WAVY.com made several calls to the UVA Medical Center and was told "hepatic arterial infusion" wasn't offered there, but an Optima spokesperson said it is. The Derrick's said even if that's the case, they want it done by the best.
"I don't even think that there are words that can explain the anger that I feel for the insurance company," Jonathan said. "I don't know how somebody can sit behind a desk and snap their finger and say 'his life is not worth it'."
"This is just prolonging my sons having to see their father the way he was," Kelli added. "We had the hopes of having this [tumor] removed July 2. Even if UVA or any other hospital offers this, it's still not going to be within the time. We don't have time. He doesn't have time."
WAVY.com did get a statement from Optima that reads, "Optima Health works hard every day to improve the health of our members and provide them with appropriate options of care within the scope of their benefit plans. We respect the privacy of our members and will not discuss the specific medical care for any of our members."
The Derricks told WAVY.com they plan to go to New York, even if Optima doesn't pay for it. They said there are people all over Hampton Roads who are holding fund raisers to help them out. You can find more information about how to help by clicking this link .
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