It was the summer of 2017. Paul Rosenberg had taken some time off from work for the 4th of July holiday. But somewhere along the way, he wasn’t feeling well. As the days progressed he was so sick he knew he needed to see a doctor immediately. Not one to take much medication, and never having stepped foot into an emergency room, Paul’s wife knew it was serious.
They found a problem with his gall bladder, but they also found something else. “I wasn’t under the impression there was anything life-threatening”, Paul said, “but the doctors sent me home and suggested I see my doctor the next day.”
What his doctor later found was life-threatening. It was stage 4 mesothelioma: a tumor of the tissue that lines the lungs, stomach, heart, and other organs. And it was spreading. “I was in total shock,” said the 66-year-old.
Next came the treatments. Paul’s doctors started with traditional chemotherapy, only to find out he was one of the rare patients allergic to chemo. So, they found a new treatment. But when that didn’t work, he explored the options of clinical trials.
It just so happened, there was one that his team thought could help him. But it was in Houston at MD Anderson. Paul, who lives near Denver, knew it wouldn’t be cheap, but felt he had no options and he wasn’t done fighting.
He traveled to Texas on his own dime, spending as much as $1600 on a flight alone when doctors needed to see him within a week. As treatment became more regular, he was flying every 2 weeks. Out on Tuesday, back home on Wednesday. “I made about 20 trips. I was paying upwards of 3 thousand dollars a month for flights, rental car, hotel and parking. It was stressful,” Paul said. “Stress makes cancer worse, and it’s really stressful when you’re paying all that money. In addition to that, I was trying to work and then taking time off. Ultimately I had to quit my job.”
Just as the expenses to travel to the clinical trial became too big a burden to handle, a social worker at MD Anderson suggested Lazarex Cancer Foundation. “What they did for me was an instant relief … I no longer had that stress.” Paul said, “I felt guilty that I was spending all of our money from savings. But what choice did I have? Doctors had something that could help me… I had to do it. When Lazarex started helping, I knew we wouldn’t have to go bankrupt.”
Unfortunately, after some time, the trial in Houston stopped working. The good news is, Paul’s oncology team found a new trial. This one, in his hometown of Denver. As of September 2019, Paul has been on the trial for 1 month. He says he is doing well and feeling good. He no longer needs the financial reimbursements from Lazarex, but he says he is forever grateful for the support which alleviated his stress and helped him fight his disease.