Pamela Pirozzi is still fighting for a happy ending.
In April, Pirozzi, who suffers from advanced breast cancer, struck a victory for terminally ill patients across the country. The Anne Arundel County resident became one of only a handful of people in the nation to successfully challenge a health insurer's decision to deny coverage for a sophisticated new cancer treatment on the grounds it was experimental.
Pirozzi, 35, had been scheduled to undergo an autologous bone marrow transplant when Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Virginia refused to pay for the $250,000 procedure, which her doctors regarded as her best chance for survival. She sued, and after a two-day court trial, a federal judge in Alexandria sided with her.
Pirozzi's celebration was short-lived. After changing doctors and hospitals, she underwent four months of tests, including massive doses of chemotherapy, to determine whether she was still a good candidate for the transplant. The results were not good. Her cancer had continued to spread, and in August the experts concluded that the mother of three was ineligible for the treatment she had fought so hard to get.
Although her doctor has given her less than a year to live, Pirozzi has not lost hope or her dogged spirit. Last month, she began visiting an Illinois hospital that treats cancer with large doses of drugs, vitamins, positive thinking and group therapy. "I'm eating organic food now and I've had a permanent. When people see me, they tell me how good I look," she said recently.
Pirozzi said she has no regrets about her battle with Blue Cross, even though it did not pay off in her case. To this day, she said, she continues to receive letters of encouragement, expressions of gratitude and calls for advice from women in similar situations.
"Because of my case, it helped a lot of women by letting them know you can fight back even though you are a common person going up against a big company," she said. "I always tell them, fight for your life no matter what it takes."