In 2003, I was diagnosed with fast-growing, aggressive breast cancer. My health insurance at the time, a Harvard University employee plan, prohibited referrals out of their small network, which only included three “general” surgeons, none of whom was a breast cancer specialist.
After a month of appeals, phone calls and letters, they said they’d allow me to have the surgery elsewhere if I paid the surgeon's fee, roughly $2000. They had recommended a skin-sparing "simple" mastectomy that would preserve part of the breast.
When I finally met Dr. Iglehart, he very cheerfully told me that would never work. I had 8cm of high-grade, HER2-neu-positive DCIS with comedo necrosis. I'd need a modified radical mastectomy and a dissection that would remove most of the lymph nodes under my right arm and leave it partially numb to this day (and, although I didn’t know it at the time, four more surgeries, reconstructive procedures and hormone therapy over the next five years).
He didn't tell me at the time that he would refuse my money and perform the surgery pro bono, that Dana-Farber would continue to treat me for free until I was able to switch health plans, that he’d write an angry letter to Harvard saying that, as a graduate of Harvard Medical School, he was appalled their employee plan didn’t have doctors on staff with specialized knowledge of cancer.
He only told me years later that if I’d had a simple mastectomy, I may not have survived. It was critical I had the right surgery with the right doctor because surgeons, he told me, “don’t just cut. They need to understand the disease."
Now I have a chance to pay back that surgeon’s fee, plus some interest.
100% goes to research, specifically the Claudia Adams Barr Program in Innovative Basic Cancer Research.
Please help if you can.