Rachael Sensabaugh

Rachael Sensabaugh

FROSTBURG — Rachael Sensabaugh is keeping her head in the books this fall and trying not to think about cancer.

The 21-year-old nursing student at Allegany College of Maryland received good news and bad news recently about the illness she’s been fighting since 2005.

The good news: After months of denials from insurance companies, Sensabugh’s family finally found a company that would pay for expensive experimental treatments.

The bad news: Researchers have decided that the drug, called Sargramostim, won’t help her.

“In the clinical trials they were doing they found that it’s not working,” said Sensabaugh’s aunt, Elena Steele, who has led fund-raisers to help pay for her niece’s medical care.

Since summer, community members have contributed almost $6,000 to help pay for the Sargramostim, which was expected to cost about $1,600 a day.

“The good news is we don’t need the money anymore,” Steele said. “The bad news is there’s nothing else they can do for her.”

A senior at Allegany High School when she was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer four years ago, Sensabaugh has undergone surgeries to remove portions of her lung, as well as radiation and chemotherapy. She’s been tumor-free since her last surgery in February, but visits an oncologist in Frederick every three months for chest scans.

Every six months, she travels to Johns Hopkins University Hospital for a PET scan.

Funds raised over the summer will help cover travel expenses, Steele said.

“I just don’t want people to keep sending money thinking that we’re still trying to afford the medicine,” Steele said.

Sensabaugh said Friday she’s feeling well, if a little stressed, from school. She returned to AC this fall after a yearlong absence while she was undergoing cancer treatments. It’s her second semester.

“It’s a lot more stressful than what I was thinking it was going to be,” said Sensabaugh, who is considering looking into herbal therapies, at her boyfriend’s urging, but hasn’t decided for certain.

“Me, I really don’t want to do anything else unless I have to,” she said. “I’m trying not to worry about it too much right now. School is my priority, so I’m trying to focus on that.”

Contact Kristin Harty Barkley at kharty@times-news.com.

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