Cancer Survivor Fights Insurance Company on Road to Recovery
By BOB KECSKEMETY
Click On Image to Right to View Fullscale
“It turned my life upside down,” said Douglas Randazzo, 46 of Fort Lauderdale, originally in response to being asked what his first impression was when he found out he had cancer. “I’ve had 20 years of HIV and it never stopped me. This [the cancer] stopped me dead in my tracks.”
Randazzo was diagnosed with hip cancer in July 2009 and started treatment that September and has been having to fight his insurance company for coverage for most of that time.
Originally from Brooklyn, New York, Randazzo graduated in the top 3% of his high school class. He obtained a Bachelors degree in both Spanish and French from Drew University where he graduated from in 1984. He worked in New York’s garment district where he sold women’s clothing and was a member of the Edward R. Murrow theater group. Randazzo met his current boyfriend in March 2009 shortly after he moved to Fort Lauderdale.
Like many Americans facing the healthcare crisis in the United States, Randazzo has had to fight his insurance company. He says that his cancer appears to be in remission and that the last time he was tested, his results came out clean. However, his insurance company, based in New York, has denied him retesting. Furthermore, since his insurance company is not based in Florida, any medical treatment he obtains in Florida is considered “out-of-system” and thus not covered as it would be if he obtained treatment up north.
“These couple of months have been a nightmare because the healthcare system down here is so bad,” stated Randazzo.
Florida, and each state, gets their money from the federal government and then each state distributes the money in their own way according to their own rules. Randazzo said that coming down to Florida was a “rude awakening” when it comes to dealing with insurance companies and it continues that way.
Randazzo’s partner, who has asked to remain anonymous, first noticed the ad for the 2011 Brian Neal Fitness Challenge. The Challenge, a 12-week boot camp to a better life, describes itself as the first step in a thousand-mile journey to a happier and healthier lifestyle, started last month. Randazzo said that he and his partner had only known each other a short time before Randazzo’s cancer diagnosis. Both used to be physically fit but Randazzo admits
to having put on about 30 pounds over the last few months.
“Brian has been a godsend,” said Randazzo who was raised Catholic. “I try to hold on to my belief in God and I believe in what I call ‘angels along the way’ and Brian is one of those angels. When you look into Brian’s eyes you can see genuine caring.”
Though Randazzo admits that he had never been very buff, but used to work out 4 to 5 times a week as it helped out with his HIV. When Randazzo moved down here, he moved into a complex with a workout room where he regularly took advantage of the facilities and equipment. Eventually he started to feel a pain and thought that he had been overdoing his workout. Over a period of time, the pain increased and his left leg and hip went out as he collapsed in pain. He went to the hospital emergency room and that’s when he was diagnosed with cancer.
Randazzo described his cancer treatments as being very difficult and painful mostly because of the underlying location of cancer.
One of his New York doctors recommended an associate of his in Florida who is working through Randazzo’s insurance company up north.
The main objective was to first get rid of the cancer but the side effects, such as the pain, will last up to seven years. He was eventually led to an acupuncturist to help with the pain and these treatments have helped immensely and helped get him back on his feet.
When Randazzo first met with Brian Neal, “he listened and was very compassionate,” said Randazzo. “I had some reservations about doing the program because I felt like my body was betraying me. I used to like to run and I couldn’t even do that anymore. I didn’t want to make matters worse.”
Neal assured Randazzo that he will be able to work at his own pace and at different levels. At times, according to Randazzo, Neal would pull him off to the side when he felt that the group would do something that may be risky to Randazzo’s hip and have him do something else.
“As I’m getting older, it’s certainly not healthy to be as out of shape as I was. I didn’t realize that during the two years I’ve been away from the gym I would have lost so much stamina, and the extra weight I had gained certainly didn’t help.”
Randazzo is also grateful to Island City Health and Fitness in the Shoppes of Wilton Manors for donating their space and staff to the participants of the Brian Neal Fitness Challenge. He realizes that, especially during these hard economic times that a commercial business should care so much about giving back to the community and helping with this lifechanging opportunity.
“I’m much better now,” said Randazzo, “though I’m still not 100-percent. Brian opened the door for me. I do believe that things happen for a reason and God himself led me to Brian who I feel took a personal interest in me. I’m trying to get my life back in order and working with Brian has been a giant step and I’ll always be grateful to him for that.