FREDERICK, Md. (WUSA9) -- Only on 9, imagine trying to save a loved one's life, knowing there's a medical procedure that may be able to do that, and you're rejected by insurance!
What would you do? A local couple is running out of options and time, so they reached out to our Andrea McCarren.
"It was shocking," said Lynn Rhoderick of the doctor's appointment last September when her husband, Mike, was told he had lung cancer. "We were devastated. We didn't expect this at all."
"The main thing here is I don't let it get me down. I try to stay very positive," said Mike Rhoderick, holding hands with his wife.
The couple quickly learned of a potentially life-saving cure - a cyber knife surgery recommended by multiple doctors, including two oncologists and a surgeon.
Added Lynn said, "They were anticipating he'd be totally cured after that."
Weeks later, Mike was in the hospital, ready for surgery.
"He was all prepped, ready to go. He was on the gurney. Five minutes away from being taken to the OR," Lynn told us.
That's when the couple endured another shock. The doctor said their insurance company, Cigna, had just declined coverage for the procedure.
"I just can't believe they're playing God. All because of money," she said, her eyes brimming with tears.
Lynn says Cigna has repeatedly described the cyber knife procedure as "experimental and unproven," although it's been done successfully for years at their local hospital.
She said, "To me, this is just morally wrong that somebody can sit there and tell you no, we have the technology, we know it's available, but we're not going to do it, because it costs too much money. Your loved one is not worth our money."
"They're making decisions that are clearly life and death," confirmed Nancy Davenport-Ennis, the Founder of the Patient Advocate Foundation.
She said the Rhodericks' case is not unusual. The Patient Advocate Foundation fights for consumers' access to healthcare, free of charge. Thousands are denied coverage for potentially life-saving procedures every year.
"Call us sooner rather than later. Disease does not wait," she said.
In the Rhodericks' case, Mike's doctors sent multiple letters of appeal to the insurance company, without success.
Lynn wondered, "They're the ones that we turn to to save lives. And they keep turning us down. And why??"
Mike pointed to his chest and the cancerous tumor that lies within it.
"This is not getting any smaller," he said. And it's gonna get more complicated if it gets bigger. It's gonna spread more."
The couple has been in limbo since his cancer diagnosis. And each day they wait, Mike's condition deteriorates.
"If nothing can be done for me, hopefully this will maybe benefit somebody else," he said.
Said Lynn, "I don't think there's anything that Cigna is going to do now to change their mind."
We contacted Cigna with a series of questions: has the insurance company ever paid for cyber-knife surgery, how often does it decline paying for the procedure and why did Cigna reject Mike Rhoderick's best chance of survival?
Days later, Cigna told the Rhodericks it had reversed its decision. Lynn sent us an exuberant email: 'Mike got APPROVED for the cyber knife treatment! I am so excited; I can't stop crying.'
Mike told us, "To me, she's priceless. I know she's always got my back and that means everything to me."
Now the couple that has shared 34 years of marriage and laughter are hoping they will have the gift of many more.
"Bottom line is, I can't live without her," said Mike, clutching his wife's hand as they sat side by side on their living room couch.
"I don't want this to end," said Lynn. "Yes, we are best friends definitely."
Andrea and photojournalist Joe Martin will be following Mike through his surgery and recovery, and will be sure to keep us all posted.
If you need help fighting for coverage from –your- insurance company, the Patient Advocate Foundation is there to help, at no charge. Go to www.patientadvocate.org or check out this free guide to making an appeal.