As a pastor, I’m in the business of relieving pain and suffering – both spiritual and physical. And as an advanced stage four melanoma survivor, I understand that it is unavoidable when fighting this disease.

 What I can’t understand is when I hear about cancer patients enduring additional unnecessary suffering and delays in treatment at the hands of their insurance company. It makes me angry. I’ve seen it time and time again in the melanoma community. Because of various insurance practices, some cancer patients do not have equal coverage for the treatment their doctors prescribe due to the way those treatments are administered via infusion or in pill form.

The people who create the policies that we have to live under need to remember that they and their families are people, too, and they may one day have to live under the policies the rest of us do. They won’t like it. Insurance companies can still make a profit for their stockholders while cancer patients get treated like their doctors want them to be. Do the right thing and not only will people rise up and call you “blessed,” but you might just have a hand in many people living longer and better lives! Maybe yourselves or family members. Win-win for us all!

 Fortunately, there are efforts in Congress right now to fix this problem. The Cancer Drug Parity Act (HR 1730/S.741) would ensure that all anti-cancer treatments, including oral treatments, are covered at the same cost-sharing for patients, no matter how they are administered.

Rep. David E. Price, (D-NC-4) and Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC-8) have joined on as cosponsors of this legislation. I am thankful for their compassion for cancer patients by cosponsoring, and I urge my congressman, G.K. Butterfield (D-NC-1), Senators Thom Tillis (R), Richard Burr (R) and the entire North Carolina congressional delegation to follow their lead.

In 2008, I was diagnosed with stage 3b melanoma. During my battle with melanoma, my stage has advanced, I have gone through different treatments (surgeries, radiation, Opdivo-Yervoy infusions, and finally the Zelboraf and Cotellic pills). Because of the nature of my melanoma, my treatments were changed because of the toxic, deadly side-effects. I know my story is similar to that of many other warriors.

 I’ve learned, during my melanoma battle, that there are millions of faces of cancer. Each person’s story is different and each person’s treatment plan must be tailored to their needs. Thus, it is imperative that doctors have the ability to create personalized treatment plans that will have the best chance of defeating an individual’s cancer.

 Because of innovative research, it’s estimated that 25 to 35 percent of all new cancer treatments in development are oral therapies. For many of my parishioners in rural North Carolina, this is a gift from God. For us, traveling a long distance to a treatment facility for an infusion can be extremely difficult and costly.

Over the last decade, I have done what I had to do to live and prayed God would take care of me. (Those of us with melanoma understand there is no “cure” right now). He has graciously allowed me much more time than I ever imagined having, since Duke sent me home July 13, 2016, with nothing left for me and gave me one month to live. I believe one reason God has spared me so far is so I can continue to care, and advocate, for other cancer patients.

 I ask our lawmakers to fight for and work with, those who are living with cancer and do all within your power to relieve their pain - the Cancer Drug Parity Act will help do that.


Milwaukee Charge: Bethany, Severn, Woodland, and Zion UMCs

Northampton County