Patients facing cancer are not only faced with fighting the disease, they are also faced with financial challenges. According to an American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network poll, nearly half of cancer patients under the age of 65 said that they struggle to pay their medical bills and daily living expenses.
Mary Howson knows first-hand about this struggle. In November 2012, Mary was diagnosed with cancer.
A horse trainer out of Rozet, Mary has not been able to work since her diagnosis. The medical treatments at the Heptner Cancer Center—30 rounds of radiation and five chemotherapy treatments to date—make her already petite body weak and take up a lot of her time, as does driving the more than 30 miles to and from Rozet. Mary also takes a host of supplements and does a blood-type focused diet to keep her body healthy. The extra trips into town, and money spent on food and supplements, have also been hard on finances. To make matters worse, her husband’s hours were cut back at work.
“It’s just exhausting,” says Mary. “We’ve cut back on our grocery bill, sold my boat, and even stopped renting as many movies as we have in the past. I’ve even considered parting with some of my horses,” she said with tears in her eyes, as they are “part of our family” and an important part of her recovery.
All of above is why the new Cancer Care Committee was created. An entity of the
Campbell County Healthcare Foundation, the board’s mission is to provide financial assistance to cancer patients in Wyoming and surrounding counties. The Board will disburse grants of up to $2,500 to cancer patients and their families to assist with any expenses incurred during their cancer treatments.
It all started back in 1999 when the CCHCF raised money for the first linear accelerator for the Heptner Cancer Center. According to Nachelle McGrath, CCHCF Executive Director, the capital campaign was such a success the organization had some extra money left over after purchasing the much needed equipment. As the Foundation continued to receive donations earmarked for cancer care equipment and services, Nachelle wanted to put the money to use.
“About a year ago, Leigh (Worsley) and I were talking about how to make a difference in some patients who have been diagnosed with some form of cancer and are faced with hardships because of it,” says Nachelle. She noted that there are many great ways to support cancer nationally, especially with the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life event held every year. Funds from this event provide some cancer patients with gas cards, hats and wigs. “But, we wanted a project to support cancer patients locally.”
“For more than 12 years, I have witnessed the impact cancer has on patients and their families, not only emotionally but financially as well,” says Leigh, MS, RTT, CMD, Cancer Care Manager and Medical Physicist. “We knew that there was a need and we had money available, we just had to get it started.”
The duo began researching other communities to see if they had programs they could pull information from—and it turns out that they didn’t have to look far. Around 350 miles away in Rock Springs, they learned about Cowboys Against Cancer®. Established in 1994, the organization raises funds for Sweetwater County residents diagnosed with cancer to assist with travel expenses between Sweetwater County and other areas for medical treatment. After speaking with the director, the pair decided they wanted to create an organization much like this one in Gillette.
In April, Leigh and Nachelle reached out to nearly a dozen community members to help form the Cancer Care Committee. And in May, the board granted its first $2,500 award to Mary.
“I’m just so thankful for this grant,” says Mary. “What this board is doing will mean so much to many people in this community. It’s just wonderful.”
“This board is so crucial to support our local cancer needs. If we can lessen even a little of that pain, we feel we are following our mission,” says Nachelle.
The Cancer Care Committee is comprised of the following community members:
- Chair Leigh Worsley
- Co-Chair, Nick Kasperik
- Sherry Castelli
- Marie Hull
- Deb Lubkeman
- Nachelle McGrath
- Ryan McGrath
- Felicia Messimer
- Anne Raga
- Danielle Stovall
Grant applications are available online at cchcf.com. For more information about the Cancer Care Committee, or to donate to the program, please contact Nachelle at 307.688.6235 or visit, www.cchcf.com/cancer-care-committee/.