Remaining Hopeful Amid Rare Cancer Journey
- Former Fox News reporter Jeff McAdam, 39, was diagnosed with cervical chordoma, a rare spinal cancer, after experiencing neck and back pain and occasional tingling in his arms and legs. Although he completed proton radiation therapy, the risk of recurrence exists, calling for future treatments.
- Proton therapy works best for patients whose cancer has not yet spread to other parts of the body.
- The most significant advantage of this kind of radiation therapy is that it minimizes damage to healthy cells because the protons stop at the target instead of X-rays that continue to pass through the body and leave an exit dose.
- For help navigating treatment costs, patients can consider speaking with a financial counselor, patient navigator, or social worker at the hospital. They can also explore possible treatments through clinical trials.
A Fox News reporter battling a rare spine cancer finds himself in an emotional headspace filled with both gratitude and financial worry. Jeff McAdam, 39, was diagnosed with cervical chordoma, which is a neoplasm, or abnormal cancerous growth, in his vertebrae that is subject to recurrence after treatment, according to the National Institutes of Health. The probability of the cancer returning is pertinent to McAdam and his family because although he just finished 35 cancer treatments, he knows his cancer journey may not be over.
“You’ve got this really rare one-in-a-million-type cancer inside your body,” McAdam told KSWB News.Read More
McAdam is a former news reporter for the San Diego Fox affiliate. His cancer journey began this past summer after he started experiencing back and neck pain and a tingling sensation in his arm and leg. Although the father of two suspected a pinched nerve or blood clot, he went to the doctor to learn for sure the root cause of his sudden symptoms. According to a GoFundMe established by the McAdam family, further tests revealed he had a “large, cancerous tumor on his neck.”
The onset of a cancer diagnosis was worrying for Jeff and his family, especially his two young children. McAdam’s tumor was “wrapped around multiple vertebrae on [his] neck.” That part of the tumor was “inoperable without the risk of paralyzing Jeff or causing a stroke,” the family’s GoFundMe says.
Although he underwent surgery to get rid of much of the tumor, some of it remains due to the inoperable areas. He managed to complete 35 proton cancer treatments. Proton therapy is a form of radiation treatment. The National Cancer Institute says, “proton beam radiation therapy may be safer and just as effective as traditional radiation therapy for adults with advanced cancer.”
“I hope I don’t just go back to the life that I lived, but doing something more meaningful in some capacity. The clock is ticking,” McAdam said.
He has “additional surgeries and radiation treatment possibilities, and yet insurance only takes them so far,” McAdam’s family said in its GoFundMe, which is requesting donations to help with cancer treatment costs.
“It’s going to be a long and exhausting journey for the family, both emotionally and financially,” the GoFundMe said.
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Understanding Proton Radiation Therapy
Proton therapy works best for patients whose cancer has not yet spread to other parts of the body. The most significant advantage of this kind of radiation is that it minimizes damage to healthy cells because the protons stop at the target instead of X-rays that continue to pass through the body and leave an exit dose.
“Anytime we’re treating a lung cancer with proton therapy, it’s always going to be better than traditional radiation in that we can always reduce the normal tissue radiation doses more so than with normal radiation,” Dr. Charles Simone, Chief Medical Officer at the New York Proton Center, tells SurvivorNet.
One advantage of proton radiation is its precision. “We can really sculpt our radiation dose to exactly the shape of the tumor,” Dr. Simone adds.
There is some debate about whether proton therapy is vital, given its cost and its limited availability in large swaths of the country.
Help with the Cost of Cancer Treatment
McAdam’s family has raised $34,000 of their $50,000 goal as of the time of this writing. “Cancer treatment is incredibly expensive,” Laurie Ostacher, a Behavioral Health Clinician at Stanford Health Care, previously told SurvivorNet.
“How much coverage you have depends on your purchased insurance plan. Sometimes, when folks are younger, they might purchase a plan with a high deductible, assuming they won’t get ill. So, really, it’s helping them think about and kind of try and plan for the expenses that will be coming up. Your cancer center will often have a financial counselor to help you with that, who can sit down and go through the costs.”
WATCH: See how a social worker can help with cancer costs.
Financial toxicity is a term that has been coined to describe the problematic financial impact cancer treatment brings.
The consequences of cancer costs can extend beyond patients’ wallets. Some people feel they must cut their pills in half to extend their medications or not refill their medications for several weeks because they can’t afford it.
To begin your journey for financial assistance, start by talking to your doctor. Your cancer center can help address any concerns about the cost of your cancer drugs.
Ostacher also recommends exploring disability programs.
“Most people are working when they’re diagnosed, and finances are a significant issue for them. So, for those who want to take some time off and can take time off, I will talk to them about the disability programs that exist,” she said.
“There’s the state disability program. Every state has a disability program. They vary from state to state. And then there’s also the federal disability program. So, I’ll help folks kind of sit down, look at their income, estimate how much money they will get, they will collect from disability, how to go about the application process,” Ostacher continued.
Other options may include taking part in paid clinical trials.
Questions to Ask Your Doctor
If you are worried about cancer treatment costs, here are some questions you can ask your doctor to kickstart your way to solutions.
- What will my treatment cost?
- Will my medical insurance cover my treatment?
- How long do you expect my cancer treatment to last?
- What options do I have if I can’t afford my medication?
- Can you recommend a financial counselor or navigator to talk with?