NAPLES, N.Y. – Million-dollar lottery winner Wayne Schenk doesn't feel very lucky, in spite of hitting the jackpot.
That's because the dying ex-Marine was diagnosed with incurable lung cancer five weeks before snatching the $1 million prize on a $5 scratch-off ticket — but the New York Lottery says no dice on paying him in full.
"If it wasn't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all," Schenk, 51, said with a wheezy laugh as he sat in a friend's pickup outside an attorney's office where he recently went to draw up his will.
Instead, lottery officials say they have rules to follow, and can either pay him $50,000 annually for 20 years or give him a lump sum payment of $400,000, which after taxes would amount to only about half that. He wants the money for a specialized cancer treatment — which costs almost double what he'll get.
"We're incredibly sympathetic," said Susan Miller, deputy director of the New York Lottery. "But we're not able, because of our rules and regulations, to just write him a (lump-sum) check. We're absolutely willing to expedite the paperwork if he can talk to a bank or a company that does this."
The office of New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer said it doesn't plan to intervene.
"The state lottery division is handling this matter," a spokesman for the governor told FOXNews.com. "The lottery division has tried to make accommodations to assist Mr. Schenk. He does have options. My understanding is that the lottery is working with a bank to accommodate him."
At issue is the fact that making an exception for Schenk would mean having to relax the regulations for other winners, too.
"We're sympathetic to his plight, but there's no way the lottery can bend the rules," the governor's office said.
With doctors giving him little more than a year to live, the former Marine has no need for a new house, or a fancy car. He's hoping to buy a little time — by checking into a Philadelphia hospital that specializes in treating advanced-stage cancers.
The $1 million New York Lottery prize pays out in $50,000 annual installments over 20 years, and the Eastern Regional Medical Center told him it would need $125,000 up front and $250,000 in reserves to be tapped as his treatment proceeds.
His insurance with the Department of Veteran Affairs cannot be transferred to an out-of-network provider.
"I understand money can't buy everything, but money can prolong things, you know?" Schenk said.
It's proving much trickier than he imagined.
Schenk recently cashed his first lottery check — $34,000 after taxes — and is still scrambling to find a lump-sum arrangement. He's been offered a lump sum of more than $400,000, but after taxes he'd only be left with a little more than $200,000.
Chris Hamrick, a spokesman for the Cancer Treatment Centers of America that runs the Philadelphia hospital, said officials there were looking into how they could help.
Schenk also has turned to his state assemblyman, Joseph Errigo, who plans to co-sponsor a bill to allow the lottery to award a lump sum in extraordinary cases. But a legislative change could take longer than Schenk has.
For now, the lifelong smoker whose parents both died of lung cancer in the 1990s drives every few weeks to the VA Medical Center in Syracuse for chemotherapy sessions — and is even looking into enlisting in an experimental cancer-drug trial at a hospital in Alberta, Canada.
"The VA is a very good hospital but the VA works on a hundred different things," said Schenk, who served on a troop ship off Lebanon during a stint in the Marines from 1976 to 1980. "There's newer treatments out there. It takes the government a little time to come around to some of the other ways."
Schenk, who is unmarried and has no children, bought a tavern on Main Street a year ago after decades of working odd jobs in construction, the highway department and at a nearby ski resort in the hilly Finger Lakes region.
"You couldn't ask for a better, kinder-hearted guy than Wayne," said a close friend, Dom Gallo, 43. "He'll give that money away and won't try to save his own life."
Schenk said he's trying to take each day in stride.
"I haven't given up, but it's getting right down there where time is of the essence," he said. "There's only one way to go and that's up. I've already been down."
FOX News' Catherine Donaldson-Evans and The Associated Press contributed to this report.