For Sheila Heathcote, time is of the essence.
After being diagnosed with bladder cancer in January, Heathcote underwent two surgeries to remove tumors. Unfortunately, the cancer returned in September.
The Kauai woman was told by her doctors she needs to have another surgery within three months before the cancer spreads, but Heathcote is struggling to find the right surgeon to perform the procedure.
Her insurance provider approved the surgery if it was performed in Hawaii, but Heathcote said the state’s surgeons have only performed such an operation a few times. Her request to have the procedure done out of state was denied.
“The reason I want it done out of state is because there is a surgeon at Stanford who has done thousands of these procedures,” she said. “And these procedures carry a high rate of mortality and morbidity. There can be a lot of complications, and even death. So I want an experienced surgeon.”
Heathcote, 62, appealed to the Department of Health and Services and received a letter rejecting her request to have insurance cover her out-of-state surgery because it was deemed a “non life-threatening” condition and that they’re going to take 90 days to discuss her case.
“I had my doctors call them and they told them that if I don’t get this surgery soon, it’s going to metastasize. Still, they’re not taking action,” Heathcote said. “I have to get something done soon.”
Heathcote is a former registered nurse who worked on Maui and Oahu before moving to Kauai in 1992. She operated a bed-and-breakfast before closing it last year after receiving cease and desist letters from the county. She was planning to retire and move to Colombia, where she was born, but that move is now in doubt because of her medical condition.
Heathcote started a GoFundMe page to help raise money for the surgery in California. As of Friday afternoon, she has received $2,430. She estimates the surgery could be at least $100,000.
“I’m hoping that some of those people who remember me can help me in my time of need,” she said.