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Published Tue, Dec 18, 2012 08:00 PM
Modified Mon, Dec 17, 2012 05:54 PM

Johnston Health Foundation launches campaign to help cancer patients

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The Johnston Health Foundation has started a patient assistance program to help financially strapped cancer patients.

Fighting cancer can take a toll on a person’s health, and it can be even harder on those who are hurting financially.

Souither Blackwell of Selma, 43, had been married for two weeks when she found out last January that she had breast cancer. She and her husband have modest incomes and were already struggling to make ends meet.

In the year since her diagnosis, Blackwell has had chemotherapy, two surgeries and is now receiving therapy at Smithfield Radiation Oncology.

“After we pay for food and other living expenses every month, we have about $30 left over,” she says. “And it’s not enough to pay for the medicines and other things I need.”

Alison Drain, director of the Johnston Health Foundation, says doctors, nurses and staff members who work with oncology patients have in the past privately helped out as much as they could.

“We were seeing this great, unmet need among our patients,” she says. “We felt both inspired and compelled by what we saw.” In response, the foundation began a patient assistance program earlier this year called the Angel Fund.

Patients are eligible for assistance if they’re starting or undergoing oncology treatment at Johnston Health and are facing financial hardship. Assistance may include pain medications, gas cards or transportation to treatments. Other covered expenses may include wigs or prosthetics.

Blackwell says she received a gas card and a compression sleeve to control swelling after her latest surgery, to remove 33 cancerous lymph nodes.

“It’s been a blessing to know there is someone I can count on,” she says. “When I had no other way, the Angel Fund was there.”

Drain says she knows of an uninsured patient who couldn’t afford a critical test needed for a diagnosis. “Through the Angel Fund, we were able to pay for the procedure. Now she has a clearer picture of her health,” she says.

To raise money, the foundation has sought help from local banks, grocers and pharmacies in the county. From December through February, the businesses will sell memory angels for $1 each.

Customers can write the name or a special message in honor of someone who has had cancer. The angel will go on the wall of the business.

The angels will also be on sale at all Johnston County Walgreens’ locations, State Employees Credit Union and Four Oaks Bank. Also participating: Edwards IGA Food Lion in Smithfield and Food Store in Four Oaks, First Federal Bank in Clayton and Benson, Realo Discount Drugs in Smithfield, Creech Drug Company in Selma and Medicap Pharmacy at McGee’s Crossroads.

Ccontributions can be sent to the Johnston Health Foundation, P.O. Box 1376, Smithfield, N.C. 27577. Write “Angel Fund” on the check. All contributions are tax deductible.

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