How One Fund Changes Everything for Local Cancer Patients
A little help can go a long way when we show up for one another in times of need, and each of us has the power to make a meaningful difference for people undergoing cancer care in our community.
Every day, 300 cancer patients come to Grand River Regional Cancer Centre for care — that's more than 100,000 patient visits every year! The Cancer Care and Compassion Fund helps cancer patients overcome financial barriers, so they can afford the costs related to treatment and never have to choose between paying for their treatment and buying basic necessities like groceries.
“Going through a cancer diagnosis and the subsequent treatment can be a stressful and isolating experience, so we are always looking for ways to further elevate our program for everyone who relies on the Cancer Centre to receive care close to home,” said Donna Van Allen, Director, Waterloo Wellington Regional Cancer Program.
As a patient at Grand River Regional Cancer Centre herself, Virginia Adams has witnessed the financial burden of cancer treatment and the toll it can take on patients first hand.
“I learned very quickly that there were a lot of people that … fell through the cracks,” Virginia explained while recounting her experience of starting chemotherapy at the hospital. “I saw counsellors coming to talk with these people to try to figure out how their drugs were going to be paid for.”
Whether it’s a new medication that's still awaiting final approval from Cancer Care Ontario or a ground-breaking treatment that is complex and expensive to deliver, the bottom line is that not all medications are funded by the government. The Cancer Care and Compassion Fund can be used to cover the cost of these unfunded cancer drugs to ensure that patients are able to receive the treatment they need, even when it is not covered by OHIP or other health benefits.
This realization motivated Virginia to become a dedicated donor to Grand River Regional Cancer Centre, going so far as to start her own fund, which primarily focuses on helping patients pay for unfunded cancer drugs — something the Cancer Care and Compassion Fund helps patients with as well. She recognizes how fortunate she is to have her cancer treatment covered and to be in a position that, if she needed to, she could afford to pay for her treatment out of pocket. It’s a luxury she recognizes many do not have.
“I’m trying to give back in a way that truly helps individuals that otherwise would be in a truly desperate situation,” she explained.
Similarly, Rapid Novor, a biotechnology company with its headquarters in Kitchener, originally contacted the hospital to explore partnerships related to cancer treatment. But when they learned about the Cancer Care and Compassion Fund and the important role it plays in getting our community members the care they need, their team was inspired to give back.
“We were looking for a way in which we could make a difference to the community where our team members live and work,” said Frank Nemeth, Manager, Human Resources. “The Cancer and Compassion Fund came to our attention, and we felt it was a natural fit — a way for us to help a broad range of people [and provide] resources to patients and their family members during a time when they need the help the most.”
The Cancer Care and Compassion Fund can be used to help patients afford medical care, transportation costs and other cancer-related expenses, including childcare, wheelchair rentals, mastectomy bras, nutritional drinks, prostheses and medical supplies that are not fully (or even partially) covered by public or private insurance. As patients make trips to and from the hospital for treatment for months, costs like transportation, parking and a nutritious meal or snack on treatment days also add up over time, so every little bit of financial assistance helps. Most importantly, the Cancer Care and Compassion Fund allows for a holistic approach to treatment — treatment of the whole person that accounts for mental and social factors, rather than just the symptoms of the disease — without question or judgement so that anyone in need of cancer treatment will never have to face an unthinkable choice again.
91% of people diagnosed with cancer suffer a loss of income coupled with increased personal expenses, and one in six find the out-of-pocket expenses significant or unmanageable. For these individuals, the Cancer Care and Compassion Fund is a lifeline that helps them regain their health and independence. All thanks to the generosity of supporters just like you.
“Being able to offer support through [these funds] not only helps with the financial burden of undergoing cancer treatment, but it reminds patients that they are not alone during a very challenging time,” explained Donna. “Not only do they have their whole health care team behind them, but they know they also have the support of their community as well.”