DANVERS — A breast cancer diagnosis is stressful enough. But for some women, it also means struggling through a confusing healthcare system and making the difficult choice between paying rent and paying hospital bills.
That’s where the VNA Care Network and Hospice comes in. For more than 10 years, the organization’s Breast Cancer Treatment Support Program has provided financial assistance and other support to breast cancer patients in need.
One of 24 programs funded by the Massachusetts affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s grant program, and the only one that helps women statewide, the Breast Cancer Treatment Support Program provides $250 stipends for patients to use where they’re needed most.
“A lot of the women have issues with transportation costs,” said Joan Fitzpatrick, RN, a nurse care manager in the VNA Care Network’s Danvers office and manager of the support program. “A lot of them have to travel into Boston two to three days a week for several weeks.”
Women can also use the money for copays, medications, deductibles and wigs, or even to pay for groceries, utilities and rent.
“Especially with insurance costs going up, a lot of women have trouble meeting the copays and deductibles,” Fitzpatrick said.
Women who receive the stipends are asked to send a note to the VNA Care Network, explaining how they used the money and whether it was helpful.
The program’s nurse care managers also help women make doctors’ appointments, fill out applications for other financial assistance programs, and understand other available resources that they otherwise may not have known about.
“They don’t always know where to look,” Fitzpatrick said.
For women who don’t speak English well or at all, patient navigators can help. Fatima Gomes and Lucy Clinton are fluent in English, Portuguese and Spanish, and the VNA Care Network has other translators on hand available to help women who speak a different language.