Former San Francisco firefighter and cancer survivor Denise Elarms waits Wednesday to speak during a remembrance ceremony held for San Francisco firefighters who have died of cancer. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Updated: March 27, 2014 4:43PM
Cancer patients not only are subject to radiation and chemotherapy, but many in their middle years also are wiped out financially. More needs to be done for these people, who often are divorced and living on one income that they lose once they become ill. When sick, they can’t work, and so their economic foundation is often devastated.
Not only can’t many people afford the high cost of conventional cancer therapies, but they also can’t afford to meet the dietary needs of cancer survivors, who must learn to utilize the most innovative dietary programs necessary to improve their recovery rate.
The multibillion-dollar cancer pharmaceutical monopoly often works alongside not-for-profits that raise millions of dollars, of which hardly a penny goes to support the survival needs of cancer patients who have lost their income due to the illness.
One cancer charity in DuPage County, for example, doesn’t readily provide rides to the many people who can’t afford to drive, or physically can’t drive, during their illness.
We should ask the cancer nonprofits where the money goes. Do donations help cancer victims with housing, utilities, survival and nutritional aid or do they mostly go to research and if so, what has that researched accomplished? Can those financial and educational facts be published on their websites every year?
Our organization, SARET Charitable Fund, has for over 28 years watched in dismay and bewilderment as cancer patients call us for rent and other forms of survival aid while they are undergoing chemotherapy and radiation because they lost their jobs, or are too ill and weak to work. While food aid is quite available in DuPage thanks to wonderful organizations such as the People’s Resource Center of DuPage, Loaves & Fishes Community Pantry and other local pantries, little money is available for the housing, utilities and transportation needs of cancer patients fighting for their physical and economic survival.
In 2005, we added a second aid fund dedicated to medically disabled clients in memory of Barbara K. Brent, a community activist who had worked on behalf of the homeless and the disabled in our county.
When one is sick, one needs to rest, to eat well, to focus on getting better and not on searching endlessly for financial aid to secure a roof over one’s head. One needs fresh and healthful food and utilities covered so one can battle illness with dignity and enjoy some self-sufficiency.
Raising funds for these unfortunate people feels much like pulling teeth. I want to see the cancer nonprofits dedicate donations to economic funding for cancer patients during their “battle for life.” When supporting research, they should consider diversifying the grants to include innovative start-up research projects that offer research into fighting cancer by enhancing the immune system rather than destroying it. They should also examine research models from other parts of the world.
Until those groups meet that challenge, cancer patients need your help. Please support those who are facing their darkest hour. Be there for them.
Chana Bernstein is the founder and president of the SARET Charitable Fund.