Breast Cancer Support Fund is an organization that provides financial assistance to women with breast cancer. We spoke with Donna Sheehan, Executive Director, to find out more about what they do.
Describe your charity/non-profit in a few sentences.
The truth about breast cancer is that the financial burden can be just as devastating as the physical and emotional impact. This is why the Breast Cancer Support Fund exists – to bridge the gap between the financial reality faced by breast cancer patients and the limited financial assistance available.
Cancer-related out-of-pocket expenses such as medication, transportation, prosthetics, wigs, food, restorative therapies, and medical devices add to the burden for patients who are sick, vulnerable and fighting for their lives.
Our goal, with the help of individuals and organizations, is to be a leader in raising awareness of this crisis while striving to build a community of support around this issue.
What problem does it aim to solve?
The downward economic struggle that often accompanies a cancer diagnosis is well known within the cancer care community but there are very few resources available for patients. The economic burden is often more stressful than the diagnosis and treatment.
When did you start/join it?
I founded the charity 10 years ago.
What made you want to get involved?
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, my life changed in many ways. I started a new career working for a national organization providing information and peer support to breast cancer patients, their families, colleagues and caregivers. During this time, while I was acutely aware of the psychosocial effects of a breast cancer diagnosis, it was a shock to learn that the financial crisis that too often accompanies a diagnosis was considered by so many women to be much more stressful than the diagnosis and treatment. I was determined to make lives better for people living with breast cancer. It became my life’s passion. As a four-time breast cancer survivor, I’m hopeful that research will make advances against this terrible disease but in the meantime, breast cancer patients facing a financial crisis can’t wait for a cure, they need help today.
What was the situation like when you started?
The simple truth is that being a breast cancer patient comes with many added expenses – costs that, too often, aren’t covered by government assistance programs or employer-paid health insurance.
How has it changed since?
The lack of resources available to help breast cancer patients has not changed. There continues to be a lack of resources. The GIG economy has only added to the number of Canadians who no longer work as employees for companies that would have provided short or long-term disability.
What more needs to be done?
Changes to public policy around financial assistance for a start. The average length of treatment for breast cancer takes place over 38 weeks but can often last as long as a year. Sick Benefits through Employment Insurance provide benefits for only 15 weeks at a very reduced portion of salary and not everyone qualifies.
How can our readers help?
Donate. Start your own fundraiser. Every donation, large and small, has an impact.
Do you have any events coming up?
We are planning an event in time for Mother’s Day in 2023. (Almost 40% of the patients we support are single mothers)
Where can we follow you?
PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity that you love?
I’d say it’s a toss-up between the Salvation Army, a charity that does so much good work at the community level and the Terry Fox Foundation, an organization that keeps its fundraising costs quite low enabling a large percentage of the funds raised to go to research.