A New York man’s long arduous battle against both cancer and his insurance company could soon reach a relieving end.
Anthony Di Laura, 35, was diagnosed with pseudomyxoma peritonei (PMP), a rare type of abdominal cancer in August of 2020 after weeks of on-and-off stomach pains.
After multiple surgeries and rounds of chemotherapy did little to help, he was told by doctors his chances of survival were near-zero.
He then found out about a rare organ transplant he could potentially receive, but his insurance company stood between himself and getting on the waiting list to receive the operation.
His long battle with Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) finally came to an end earlier this year, though, and Di Laura now hopes that he can receive the life-saving multi-visceral transplant that will save his life.
Anthony Di Laura (right) was diagnosed with the rare abdominal cancer PMP in August 2020 after weeks of feeling symptoms on and off. He was convinced to seek medical treatment by his wife Jackie Cucullo (left)
Di Laura (right) initially went through seven months of chemotherapy and two significant surgeries. The treatment was found to have limited effectiveness
Di Laura first started to experience symptoms in summer 2020, he told Good Morning America.
He reported severe stomach pain and even felt that his stomach was protruding in some places.
His issues seemed to have resolved, disappearing for a week making the Bronx, New York, resident feel secure in his health.
Di Laura was told by a doctor that he should prepare to die after months of treatment did little to help him
Once his issues returned, his wife, Jackie Cucullo, convinced him to seek out medical attention.
In August he would be diagnosed with PMP at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.
It it a rare cancer that usually forms within a person’s appendix, according to WebMD.
Around one out of every one million people will be diagnosed with the disease throughout their lives.
Once a tumor grows out of the area where it initially formed it begins to create mucinous, filling up a person’s stomach. This is what Di Laura was likely experiencing when his stomach began to protrude.
He would end up going through seven months of chemotherapy, and had cytoreductive surgery performed twice – to no avail.
‘It is the most miserable feeling in the world that nobody should ever go through,’ Di Laura said.
‘Every day is a battle. Every day is a challenge.’
Cracking the cancer seemed impossible, and even doctors were starting to lose hope that they could treat him.
Di Laura, who was now a father at this point, persevered, though. He would eventually learn of a rare ‘multi-visceral’ organ transplant that could be performed on him in Ohio and got in contact with doctors at the Cleveland Clinic
Di Laura’s addition to the waiting list for a transplant was held up for nearly a year as he battled with BCBS to approve the operation
‘My last hospital stay … the shift doctor who was in charge came into our room and said, ‘What is your plan?’ I looked at him, I said, ‘What’s my plan? I want to get better.’ He explained, ‘Nobody will operate on you in this hospital … Your best bet is to go on hospice and live a comfortable life until the end.’ That’s what he said,’ he explained.
He had recently become a father, though, giving him an extra reason to want to persevere.
Cucullo said that they couple was having trouble getting pregnant for two years. Finally, just before Di Laura’s health began to deteriorate, they finally had a breakthrough.
‘[Pregnancy] is extremely rare in itself while someone is undergoing chemotherapy. So we feel blessed for our two children for sure,’ Cucullo explained.
Through a support group for those suffering with PMP, the couple was introduced to the story of a man who had a similar case to Tony.
They found that he had received the first ever ‘multi-visceral’ organ transplant in the U.S. at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.
This type of transplant imports a new liver, small intestine and other abdominal organs into a patient all at once.
Now on the waitlist, Di Laura is hoping he can find a donor and continue to raise his two young children
In March of 2020, Di Laura contacted doctors in Ohio to be listed on the waiting list to receive the rare procedure.
His health insurance with BCBS proved to be a barrier, though. The company reportedly denied his application to have the surgery covered multiple times.
After a year of battling with insurance, Di Laura once again persevered and finally got approved to get put on the wait list.
In that time, the family also welcomed a second child this May, with Lila Rae joining her brother JP in what they couple describes as ‘miracle babies’.
‘Always fight. Always keep hope and never give up because somebody says it’s impossible,’ he said.
‘I’ve never taken no for an answer and I’m not going to start now when it’s going to save my life to live with my family.
‘So I want my kids to know that never give up in the face of anything because somebody says no. There will always be a way around it. There are always new ideas or always new inventions. There always will be an answer. You just can’t give up and that goes for everything in life.’