TLAC Update March 1, 2019

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Let’s Support Tennesseans with Cancer!

Dear Legislators,

Eight years ago this month cancer and I were slugging it out.  Only ONE treatment existed that could preserve my life and quality-of-life:  proton therapy!  Talk to anyone about this amazing option and you’ll hear it described most often as miraculous.  As one who has been there and done that, I don’t feel like I’ve ever had cancer!

My insurance company tried to mandate my treatment–against the recommendation of my nationally acclaimed oncologist!  It claimed that proton therapy was too new, experimental, and unproven.  Ridiculous, unfounded, despicable?  You bet!

I had to go to another state for treatment since Tennessee didn’t offer it at the time.  Back then only eight (8) proton centers existed in the United States, and today there are thirty (30) with another couple of dozen under development.  Robert Wilson conceived proton therapy as a cancer cure in 1946; doctors treated the first patient in 1954; the FDA approved it in 1988; Medicare started covering it in 1998; about 140,000 cancer patients have taken it with incredible results.

This year I’m hoping that everyone is astute to realize that proton therapy is the real deal, a paradigm shift in treating cancer.  I want my fellow Tennesseans to have the same right of choosing the cancer treatment best for them as recommended by their doctors.  Our state is incredibly blessed to lead the nation in this world-class technology, and it’s high time to allow our citizens the choice to take it.  Support the Proton Therapy Access Act, SB0195/HB0184.

Kind regards,

Don Denton

President, Tennessee Cancer Patient Coalition

Meet Alexa Gash, Cancer Survivor

Alexa Gash is a young cancer survivor. At age 29 she received a diagnosis of having throat cancer–after only four years of marriage to her basketball coach husband, Peter, and recently giving birth to their first baby, a cutie named Valentina. The conventional treatments would have been surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, which would have resulted in the removal of her teeth, the inability to salivate, the loss of her sense of taste, and needing a feeding tube. For good measure, the possibility of cancer recurrence would be high.

Can you imagine such a situation for a young lady like Alexa? Fortunately, she discovered proton therapy and its ability to kill cancer cells without harming healthy tissue. The family packed up and headed to Tennessee’s proton center in Knoxville.  Guess what happened?  Their insurance company refused to provide coverage! It never relented, leaving the Gash family on their own. Fortunately, they found a way.

Today she is doing great—thanks to proton therapy—without the horrific quality of life issues that would have been caused by the conventional treatments. For anyone who thinks her case is the exception relative to insurance coverage, think again. It’s the norm in Tennessee, and anyone with a heart should know that’s not right.

Just imagine if you had a daughter, son or other loved one diagnosed with cancer and needed proton therapy. Would you think it’s okay for their health insurance to deny coverage for the only cancer treatment that can save their life and quality of life? Tennessee needs a law to prevent this abuse of insurance power over our citizens’ lives.  Support the Proton Therapy Access Act, SB0195/HB0184.  It’s a life and death issue for many people–people just like Alexa.

Don’t Think Cancer Will Affect You?

Think again. What percentage of the U.S.A. population will be diagnosed with cancer sometime during their lifetime?

(a) 9% (b) 24% (c) 33% (d) 38%

If you guessed anything less than (d) 38%, you guessed wrong.  Everyone knows somebody who has or has had cancer. No one is exempt from this terrible disease. The great news is that if diagnosed early, in most cases it can be beaten. The bad news is that Tennessee has the tools to do so, but insurance companies block cancer patients from using them. YOU can affect change!

TLAC Update February 19, 2019

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Let’s Build the Momentum Against Cancer!

Dear Senators and Representatives,

Welcome to Nashville and the 111th Session of the Tennessee Legislature!  You serve an important responsibility in acting on behalf of our citizens.  The Tennessee Cancer Patient Coalition is eagerly looking forward to working with you this year to advance healthcare in our state at no additional cost!

We greatly appreciate Senator Becky Massey and Representative Robin Smith for being the primary sponsors of the Proton Therapy Access Act, SB0195/HB0184.  Most of you are already familiar with this vitally important bill.  It would permit state employees to receive insurance coverage for hypo-fractionated proton therapy cancer treatment at the same reimbursement rate as conventional intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT).

Tennessee’s citizens have already spoken loudly and clearly that they want this bill passed into law!  Last year the Tennessee Legislature responded overwhelmingly in response to the public outcry, with 94% approval by the Senate and 86% approval by the House.   If you’d like to be included in a winning effort that would appeal to your constituents, you should sign on to become a co-sponsor of the bill.

If you’d like to know more about proton therapy, the bill, its history, etc., please don’t hesitate to contact me at 865-437-9545 or  I’d be happy to help you!

Best regards,

Don Denton

President, Tennessee Cancer Patient Coalition


Our Sympathy

The TCPC extends sympathy to the family of Rep. Charles Sargent, who passed away following the last Session after a long battle with cancer.  He chaired the House Finance, Ways and Means Committee.  Rep. Sargent provided a powerful voice in favor of the proton bill in 2018.  He gave a passionate appeal to his fellow legislators in urging them to support it as well. We are hopeful that his influence will be felt in the coming Session, too.  We remember him for his service to our state and its cancer patients.


Dr. Andrew Lee Tells It Like It Is!

In a previous testimony to the Senate Commerce

and Labor Committee, Dr. Andrew Lee, who served as the Medical Director of world-renown M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, gave this sage advice:  “Tennessee is being offered a Mercedes at a Yugo price.  It’d be crazy to not take the deal.”  Nothing has changed.  This year’s Proton Therapy Access Act, SB0195/HB0184, is an incredible opportunity for our state employees to gain access to the world’s most advanced cancer treatment at no extra cost to the State, insurance companies or patients.


Oklahoma Jury Awards $25.5 Million in Damages Against Aetna for Denying Proton Therapy for Cancer Patient.

Orrana Cunningham lost her life to cancer when Aetna denied her the only treatment that could save her life.  The jury determined that “Aetna recklessly disregarded its duty to deal fairly and act in good faith with the Cunninghams.”


This situation is happening in Tennessee as well.  Our citizens are being denied coverage for proton therapy, even when it’s the best option recommended by their doctors.  This year’s bill to help state employees represents a small step toward correcting this serious problem.