SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Katie Blunck faced one rejection after another after she was diagnosed with a rare brain cancer in January.
But at 11:45 a.m. on Feb. 27, her luck changed with one phone call.
Blunck, a 32-year-old Sioux Falls music teacher, learned her insurance company was going to cover the special type of focused radiation recommended by her doctor, the Argus Leader reported . That decision came after two rejection letters where Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield called the radiation "not medically necessary."
A letter confirming the approval from the insurance company read: "In this instance, for you and your specific condition, the treatment would be appropriate."
"I'm relieved, for one, to finally get the answer I've been working towards," Blunck said.
She's already had her first round of chemotherapy, and she was scheduled to begin what's called "pencil-beam proton radiation therapy" on Feb. 28.
Blunck attributed the insurance company's change of heart to her Mayo Clinic doctor, Andrea Arnett, and her attorney, Mark Haigh of Evans, Haigh & Hinton, LLP in Sioux Falls.
Haigh reached out to Blunck after seeing an Argus Leader story about her situation and how she was twice denied coverage for proton radiation by her insurance company.
Blunck's battle with the insurance company started shortly after she was diagnosed January with Anaplastic Pleomorphic Xanthro Astrocytoma Grade 3 (out of 5).
Her doctor, Arnett, advocated for the proton beam therapy because it's a more targeted treatment that would minimize exposing healthy brain cells to radiation.
She's won the battle with the insurance company, but she still has a long road ahead. Blunck is at the start of six weeks of a combination of chemotherapy and proton radiation treatment, which will be followed by four weeks of recovery and six more months of chemotherapy.
Starting with a win gives her the momentum she needs to get through the rest, though, Blunck said.
"I just have faith that this is going to get me all fixed up," she told Argus Leader.
The end goal is to return to teaching her orchestra students, Blunck said, and music is playing a big role in the healing process.
"Mayo Clinic has grand pianos all throughout the buildings for anyone to play on at any time... part of my healing process will be to go there and play music with my identical twin sister, friends, and anyone who wants to join me whenever I can," she said.
Another part of the healing process is spending time with her cat, Turbo, who is in Rochester, Minnesota with Blunck as she goes through treatment.
Blunck said she's grateful for the support she's seen from her attorney to letters from her students to the more than $20,000 raised on her GoFundMe page, and she hopes to someday pay it forward to other cancer patients like her in the future.
"It's been a difficult journey," Blunck said. "With the appeals and the denials and the appeals and the denials. It's exhausting work, but worth it."
Information from: Argus Leader, http://www.argusleader.com