Community rally together to help pay when a medical insurance refused. Gary Waldman

In just two months since his diagnosis, this incredibly determined South African has stood up against Cancer and a Medical Insurance giant while keeping his faith in all that is good.


Roodepoort, South Africa (02 May 2019) – Gary Waldman, a 37-year-old single dad from Johannesburg was devastated when he heard that his medical insurance would not be paying for treatments that could save his life, but the South African community have not only helped change the original payment decision by the medical aid but are also helping to raise money for the shortfall.

Waldman found out that he had Malignant Melanoma at the beginning of March 2019 after having a small growth removed under his arm. The growth is known as Lipoma and is usually a lump under the skin that occurs due to an overgrowth of fat cells. Doctors consider lipomas to be benign tumours, which means that they are non-cancerous growths, but Waldman’s Doctor realised – during the operation – that there was something under the lump which concerned him even more.

He decided to remove the ‘concerning’ nodes and send them off for testing.

The tests came back positive for ‘Metastatic Malignant Melanoma’, and Waldman was rushed back into surgery to remove all the cancerous nodes, as well as all affected areas.

“The most dangerous aspect of melanoma is its ability, in later stages, to spread (or metastasise) to other parts of the body. The term metastatic melanoma, or Stage IV melanoma, is used when melanoma cells of any kind (cutaneous, mucosal or ocular) have spread through the lymph nodes to distant sites in the body and to the body’s organs.”

Waldman immediately started looking into what post-operation treatment would be best for him, and his Oncologist agreed that Immunotherapy would be the only way forward.

Cancer Immunotherapy (sometimes called immuno-oncology) is the artificial stimulation of the immune system to treat cancer, improving on the system’s natural ability to fight cancer. It is an application of the fundamental research of cancer immunology and a growing subspecialty of oncology. It exploits the fact that cancer cells often have tumour antigens, molecules on their surface that can be detected by the antibody proteins of the immune system, binding to them. The tumour antigens are often proteins or other macromolecules (e.g. carbohydrates). Normal antibodies bind to external pathogens, but the modified immunotherapy antibodies bind to the tumour antigens marking and identifying the cancer cells for the immune system to inhibit or kill.

On the 12th of April 2019, after sending all the information to Discovery South Africa, he received a call from them letting him know that they would not be approving his immunotherapy.

Waldman was both heartbroken and confused.

The treatment cost was R1,8 million for the 18 sessions needed and sessions were required to happen every three weeks to fight the diagnosis. Time and money were not on his side.

He took to social media in anger to try to get help with his situation.

“A company that is paying R23 million rent for a building and making a bottom line net profit of R1 billion and this is how they treat members??? Always finding ways to shortcut payments to claims. I bet if any of their board members were in the same situation, there would be full cover and immediate approvals on anything.

Cancer is not just another sickness, and when one has an opportunity to survive and beat it, the medical aids should be more than willing to provide such treatment.

So next fight is to see how to challenge Discovery Health and for me to try to raise funds to do my therapy. R1.8 million.”

It took just a week for his post to go viral, and the verdict to change. The community were just as angry as Waldman, but it seemed that the Medical Insurance Giant was listening. Discovery had relooked at his case and his request and decided to upgrade him to a higher plan that would pay a massive portion of the therapy needed.

“After a lot of pushing and not giving up, Discovery South Africa came back to me and agreed to allow me to upgrade my plan to Classic Comprehensive, as much as this is an additional monthly expense no price can be put on life.

Discovery Health called him to let him know that they would cover 75% of the treatment and that he would only have to put in the 25% left over.

“A lady named Meera from Discovery assisted with everything and then she also asked my Oncology team to review my treatment now that I was upgraded.”

Waldman was thankful for the news but knew that his next battle had only started; he needed to raise the R450 000 of his 25% portion.

“My 25% co-payment share is R450 000, and I require R25 000 every three weeks to pay for my treatment before they release the medication to my oncologist.

My time frame is also short as I am high risk and require to start treatment as soon as possible before it becomes completely untreatable. My first R25 000-00 is already due to be paid 2 May 2019.

The thought of not seeing my children grow up really upsets me.”

He set up a crowdfunding page to raise funds for the treatments and within a few days managed to accumulate the deposit for the first two sessions.

“I want to give thanks to all those that have been generous and helped me on raising funds for my share of my treatment, To date both on BackaBuddy and Private, I have raised R 67,500 of the R450,000 needed.

Big thanks and appreciation to all. The challenge to raise funds is still on so all assistance and sharing would be enormously appreciated and I would be forever grateful.”

Waldman’s first Immunotherapy session has been booked for Monday the 6th of May, and the next treatments will be every three weeks after that.

But Waldman does not want his story to be about the Medical Aids or about what he has been through, rather faith in people and passing on knowledge.

“Never lose GOD or FAITH, know there are always good people out there, but most importantly know your body, never self medicate or assume something will go away, and if you do have Moles have them checked regularly.

A doctors visit is a small price to pay to have a good healthy life. So I genuinely hope that in all this I can give back knowledge and help to others and that others will take life more seriously and have themselves checked.

So here’s to the start and walking my next chapter of treatment to ensure I beat this disease and walk a long life.”

Update: It is with great sadness that we have to report that Gary passed away on the 11 December 2019. You were an incredible human being with one of the biggest hearts. Rest in Peace Gary.

Sources: Gary Waldman Interview | Backabuddy 
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Brent Lindeque is the founder and editor in charge at Good Things Guy.

Recognised as one of the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South African’s as well as a Primedia LeadSA Hero, Brent is a change maker, thought leader, radio host, foodie, vlogger, writer and all round good guy.

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