When he was first diagnosed with esophageal cancer, Bruce Corbitt thought he had a pretty good chance to beat it. As a heavy-metal vocalist for Rigor Mortis and Warbeast, he’d faced tough battles over the years and even survived a knife attack. He's the kind of metalhead who answers the call to battle with a batarang in each hand.
Eight months and a million dollars later, his diagnosis has worsened from Stage 3 to Stage 4 and spread to numerous lymph nodes around his kidneys. He was given two months to two years to live, but was told that he'd be lucky to make it a year.
"I may not have won this fight, but I did beat it longer than most would have," Corbitt wrote in a Dec. 28 Facebook post. “I got some extra time in life. I couldn’t have done it without my beautiful wife Jeanna Corbitt. The hardest part for me is just knowing that I will have to leave her."
Of course, he's not giving up. Like his hero Muhammad Ali, he plans to stay in the ring and fight until the bitter end.
Since his diagnosis in May, he'd been hopeful about crossing the hurdles to get cancer free, inspired by words of encouragement and Batman memes posted on Facebook by his fans and loved ones. "Fuck you, Cancer," they all seemed to be saying. "He’s going to kick your ass."
But kicking health insurance's ass is an altogether different matter. Saving your life often depends on the quality of your health insurance policy.
It seemed that every time Corbitt turned around, he had another hurdle to cross with health insurance; they are never-ending when you're dealing with something as costly as fighting cancer.
In 2014, cancer patients paid nearly $4 billion in out-of-pocket costs, according to an April 2017 report by The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society.
"Unfortunately, the follow-up stuff has been on hold because of this stupid problem of getting this referral and all this other dumb shit that I can't even believe I’m going through," Corbitt said in Facebook Live video posted a week ago. "As soon as I get that, we’ll get in there and make a game plan to figure out if we’re going to fight this with chemo, radiation, possibly future surgery or if I’m just going to have to tough it out and fight it on my own with natural remedies."
Although three specialists told him there was no chance for him to beat cancer, he found a sliver of medical hope at M.D. Anderson in Houston. Doctors there agreed to look over his medical records to determine if they can save him, but Corbitt needs his health insurance company to approve it. The specialists told him that they could do another round of chemo or radiation, or both, and then surgery, but he may not have the strength to do it.
Corbitt did receive some good news. Medicaid is trying to help to plan for his future care, including sending someone to care for him when his wife is gone and when it's time for hospice.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the Observer's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Dallas's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
"I hate to admit it, though," he said. "I can feel the cancer in there now doing something to me, causing me all this nausea and sickness. ... That scares me to death to know that it is in there spreading, and we aren’t doing anything about it to fight it because of stupid things like health insurance."
Earlier this year, Corbitt switched to better health insurance, but he said he didn't realize it was going to come back and haunt him with the waiting game. "I'm missing precious time," he said. "Every minute that goes by, I know I should have already been planning for my fight."
Corbitt calls it his last chance. "I just want to fight, get into the ring and kick this cancer's ass, but everybody is just putting me on hold," he added in a follow-up Facebook Live video Wednesday. "It's the worst feeling in the world when you can't fight for your life, and you just feel yourself dying. Every minute, every hour that goes by, I feel the cancer getting me, man."
To help Corbitt with his fight, visit his Fundrazr page.