Flathead Cancer Aid Services Helps Patients in Need
The National Cancer Institute estimates nearly 40 percent of all people will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lifetime. Apart from the stress and emotional burden, the disease can take a heavy financial toll on families as well.
In Flathead County, NBC Montana reports that two women want to turn the trend around. They founded a nonprofit called Flathead Cancer Aid Services, which works to help patients afford the cost of daily living after diagnosis.
“Even if the patient has insurance and a job, they still may struggle with the cost of covering cancer treatment,” said cofounder Sandy Shaw. "It's a costly disease in many ways and insurance may not always pay for the treatment. And the treatment is rather expensive."
Shaw is a recently retired oncology nurse. She said the idea for FCAS came to her when she was working with a special patient.
"A young man in his early 40s trying to get back to work needed his (tags) for his car,” she said. “He needed them to get back to work and back into society.”
The cost was only $90, but it was $90 he couldn’t afford. Together with another physician, Shaw paid for his tags so he could get back on the road and back to work. She knew he wouldn’t be the last person to struggle with small fiscal burdens like car tags after treatment.
"There are more people out there who need just a little bit of money to help them move on,” Shaw explained.
That’s where FCAS steps in to help provide rent, utility and other fiscal assistance so patients can focus on themselves and their families. Sandy knows the mental stress first-hand.
She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013, just one year after founding FCAS. She said the hardest part about cancer is how it causes you to question your mortality.
"It made me realize what my patients and our patients feel when they hear that news and they think 'What's going to happen to my life?'” she said.
For many people, a diagnosis means the loss of identity, Shaw said, but it wasn’t quite the same for her.
"It was almost a gift for me to learn from so I could give back to my patients,” she said.
Flathead Cancer Aid Services is always looking for volunteers. To find out how you can volunteer or donate, visit their website here.