A young South Florida man is battling cancer with the help of family and friends. And when traditional insurance couldn't help out 23-year-old Manny Alvarez, his friends turned to social media to help him in his fight.
Experts say his cancer diagnosis is more rare than being struck by lightning, and Alvarez is fighting an uphill battle for the treatment he desperately needs.
Alvarez is taking on the fight of his life one exercise at a time.
"Honestly, for me, it’s just another bump in the road," he said.
Alvarez was diagnosed last year with a rare form of cancer called Alveolar Soft Part Sarcoma. The Miami native and FIU student is regaining his strength after doctors removed a tumor in his leg bone last month. But his fight against the aggressive cancer is far from over.
"I’ll overcome it... I’m still running," he said.
After initial clinical treatments failed, experts at University of Miami’s Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center analyzed Alvarez’s tumor and discovered a personalized treatment that could kill all of his cancer cells. The only hitch was his insurance company, Florida Blue, denied the treatment, which totaled $266,000.
Dr. Breelyn Wilky discovered the potential breakthrough. Despite several appeals to the insurance company, she can’t start the treatment because the medications aren’t routinely used on sarcoma patients.
"Time is of the essence... it's incredibly frustrating for us," Dr. Wilky said.
In a statement to NBC 6, a representative for Florida Blue said, in part: "With any denial of coverage, Florida Blue works closely and directly with the members and their physicians, providing thorough documentation and medical justification based on available clinical studies and research."
Alvarez is now appealing the decision once again and turning to social media and online fundraising to make the treatment possible. He’s overwhelmed by the support of family and friends and says he won’t stop fighting, thanks to everyone in his corner.
"There’s never a reason... good things will come," he said.
On Tuesday, his family released a statement saying the outpouring of support from the community means Alvarez will start his first treatment.
"Because Manny’s treatment will likely require more than two cycles, our efforts to raise funds will continue," the statement read. "We are in awe of the generosity that has been bestowed on us in the last couple days. Thank you so much for the continued prayers and support."
To find out more about his rare condition, the treatment and how you can help Alvarez, click here.