All cancers are rare, but rhabdomyosarcoma, a soft tissue cancer, is extremely so, with no more than 400 adults diagnosed in the last 30 years.
Usually, it affects children under the age of 10, most often linked to congenital disorders.
And yet, that was the diagnosis doctors delivered to Antonio ‘Tony’ Martinez, a 31-year-old father-of-two car salesman from Texas, when he came down with muscle soreness and slight lethargy.
He and his wife, based in San Antonio, were forced to quickly get acquainted with this fast-moving, highly aggressive type of cancer that is largely resistant to all forms of treatment, reported KENS 5.
Worse, at the time of his diagnosis, he did not have health insurance, and he won’t be able to undergo chemotherapy and radiation until medical coverage kicks in from his wife’s new job – a process which could take at least two months.
Antonio Martinez, 31, of San Antonio, Texas, felt weak and lethargic and went to visit a doctor in mid-June. Pictured: Martinez, left, with his two children and his wife, Brittany
Tests showed that him white blood cell count and he was referred to a hospital. Doctors diagnosed Martinez (left and right) with rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare soft tissue cancer
Martinez made his first doctor’s appointment to address his symptoms on June 13, according to a GoFundMe page.
He was prescribed ibuprofen and sent home, but still felt pain, so he went back to the clinic on June 15.
Tests showed that his white blood cell count was high. Doctors believed he was fighting an infection, but referred him to a hospital just to be safe.
Physicians at the hospital in San Antonio performed additional tests, including an ultrasound and a CT scan.
Martinez’s wife, Brittany, says she remembers the day he was diagnosed vividly.
‘When they did the CAT scan, it was probably like 30 minutes [before] they came back and the nurse was like: “We are sorry to tell you, but you have cancer”,’ she told KENS 5.
Rhabdomyosarcoma is a cancer in which tumors develop from muscle or fibrous tissue and can grow in any part of the body.
The cancer grows in muscles, fat, bones or the linings of joints. Patients often experience drooping eyelids, headaches, nausea, and trouble urinating or having bowel movements.
Each year, about 350 children and adolescents are diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma.
However, just 400 adults have been diagnosed over the last 30 years.
Chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery to remove the tumor are the most common treatment options.
For low-risk forms, the survival rate is between 60 percent and 80 percent but, upon spreading, the rate falls between 20 and 40 percent.
Doctors say the cancer started in Martinez’s prostate, and has since metastasized up to his lungs.
Currently, however, Martinez does not have insurance to begin treatment.
The cancer started in Martinez’s prostate and has since metastasized to his lungs. Pictured: A scan showing Martinez’s cancer
Martinez does not have insurance and coverage won’t kick in from his wife’s new job for at least another two months. Pictured: Martinez with his two children
According to a GoFundMe page, he is self-employed as a car salesman and his wife started a new job in June, and her insurance does not kick in until 90 days in.
The family has since been able to sign up for CareLink, a financial assistance program to access healthcare services at University Health System in San Antonio.
‘That’s helping us out in the meantime, because he hasn’t done any chemo since being diagnosed,’ Brittany told KENS 5.
An oncologist at the University of Texas Health San Antonio MD Anderson Cancer Center has agreed to see Martinez until his insurance kicks in and they can visit MD Anderson West Houston.
Martinez says that he is going to fight so he can be there for his wife and to see his two children, Jasmine and Jaden, grow up.
‘I haven’t beat it yet, but I think the key of this is having faith,’ he told KENS 5.
His family had started a GoFundMe page and a Facebook fundraiser to help cover the cost of Martinez’s medical bills.
As of Monday afternoon, more than $600 has been raised out of a combined $35,000 goal.