Father with rare cancer tries to raise money, get approval for experimental surgery
A young father facing a rare type of cancer is trying to get approval for a surgery that has only been successfully performed one other time so far.
Jackie Cucullo and Anthony Di Laura first met at Iona College, and they have been married for seven years.
In August 2020, a simple stomach ache became a rare cancer diagnosis for Di Laura. Surgeries and chemotherapy treatment didn’t work for his pseudomyxoma peritonei.
The family never gave up. They tried to have a baby after the diagnosis, and just as they were about to start IVF, Cucullo became pregnant with J.P.
"Miracle number one,” Cucullo says.
Less than a year later, they had a new baby girl who was conceived while Di Laura was undergoing chemotherapy.
"That's very, very rare,” Cucullo says.
When the treatments for Di Laura’s cancer did not work, the family’s last hope became a multi-organ transplant performed successfully on just one other patient in the U.S. so far.
However, their insurance, Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield, denied the surgery that Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Minnesota approved for another man, calling it "investigational.”
Now, the family is waiting for another miracle.
"If you don't have hope, I don't know what you have left in life, but we're not giving up,” Cucullo says.
The family is selling their home in White Plains to raise money and to be closer to family in the Bronx. They’ve also been able to raise over $100,000 online, but they say the operation could be $500,000 to $1 million.
The family is trying a final shot at approval through an independent external review with the state.
Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield says it knows the situation is difficult.
In a statement, it said, “We recognize this is an incredibly difficult situation for Mr. Di Laura and his family, and we plan to continue to provide our support as we have done over the past several months. We are working closely with Mr. Di Laura’s medical team and are conducting an external review to determine if this procedure could be proven to improve net health outcomes based on how the disease has progressed. We are also working with the Cleveland Clinic to understand what might be possible from a clinical trials perspective.”