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Relieving the high costs of cancer

The Cancer Foundation of Northeast Georgia helps cancer patients in Lake Country and beyond.

By Lynn Hobbs

The word “cancer” can be one of the most traumatic diagnoses a person could hear; and it can be even more overwhelming for a person who struggles to make ends meet. Add the current inflated cost of living, and a cancer diagnosis could seem totally hopeless.


Fortunately, The Cancer Foundation is helping to restore hope to many Georgians with cancer by relieving some of the heavy financial burden associated with cancer. Since its beginning in 2009, The Cancer Foundation has helped more than 5,000 patients and their families with $4 million in assistance.

“Being diagnosed with cancer is a difficult time in someone’s life,” recipients Linda and Donnie Welch are quoted saying on The Cancer Foundation’s website. “But if you add to that the loss of income because you cannot work, it can be devastating. The Cancer Foundation went right to work to help get us pay many of our basic needs the first month in this hard time.

Being a couple who worked and raised six children and never had to seek outside help, this could have been a humiliating and embarrassing time; but these people were so good at what they do, we were made to feel comfortable with the process.

“Thank you to The Cancer Foundation for helping us come a step closer to maintaining our independence during a crisis,” Welch adds.

The non-profit Cancer Foundation serves cancer patients in 25 counties of Georgia, including Greene, Morgan, Putnam, and Talieferro.

The Cancer Foundation, based in Athens, serves patients who live in 25 counties in middle and northeast Georgia, including Morgan, Putnam, Greene, and Taliaferro counties. It does not matter if the patient is receiving treatment outside of those counties, the qualification is based on where the patient lives, says Tina Lasseter, TCF director of community engagement.


The patients are referred by more than 35 health care professionals, medical facilities, or hospice centers, and their income must meet the qualifying criteria. The average qualifying income is $18,000 per year, Lasseter explains, noting the average cost of a cancer diagnosis is almost twice that amount at $35,000.

Days missed from work due to treatments, travel expenses to get to treatments, prescriptions, insurance copays and deductibles all contribute to the financial burden of having cancer.

How TCF helps

Once a patient’s eligibility is confirmed, the patient is awarded $750 a year and TCF sends the money directly to the creditors. TCF has a list of services the patient chooses from and the patient submits the bills accordingly.


Laseter says the three most requested services are transportation, utilities, and rent or mortgage payments. “But we will also help with other things, such as property tax letters, durable medical equipment, medication, or nutritional supplements,” she adds.

The Fuller Family worked with their friends and community groups to donate 30 complete emergency food bags for The Patient Pantry Project. They are pictured donating the bags of food to TCF Operations Manager Brittany Davidson.

 “I qualified for some assistance from The Cancer Foundation and got a gas card, and oh, that has helped wonderfully. I live about 38 miles from my treatment center, which is about an 80-mile round trip and I have to go once a week, sometimes twice a week. It helped tremendously. I really appreciate all you’ve done for me,” pancreatic cancer patient, Martha says in the TCF testimonials.


Patients with any type of cancer are eligible. They must have a cancer diagnosis and currently receiving treatment or be within six months of treatment or on hospice due to cancer. This year, TCF will help 800 patients, which includes households with about 200 children or teens in those families.


“I’m really proud that we never turned an eligible patient away,” Laseter says. “Since 2001, every patient who requested assistance received assistance, and we paid the creditor directly, typically within 24-48 hours.”

Filling the need

Because The Cancer Foundation had a lot of patients requesting grocery cards, which were not on the list of services provided, they began a program that provides emergency bags of food to cancer patients. The Patient Pantry Project differs from a food drive in that it provides specific foods that are for people going through cancer treatments. Social workers notify TCF of the need for food, and a delivery is made from a supply of bags that are already packed and on standby. The bags are filled by donations from community or civic organizations, schools, churches, or individuals.


“We don’t always have bags, so we are always glad when donations come in for them because we try to have them ready,” Laseter says.


TCF assists Lake Country

A total of 69 people have been helped in and around Lake Country, with $5,175 going directly into the community, according to Laseter. Of those who received assistance, 19 lived in Morgan County, 16 in Greene, 11 in Putnam, 11 in Jasper, seven in Wilkes and five in Taliaferro.


Dr. Annie Hunt Burriss, of Madison, is a member of TCF Board of Directors.

Cancer hits close to home for Dr. Annie Hunt Burriss of Madison, who recently became a member of TCF’s Board of Directors. Dr. Burriss said almost everyone on her maternal side of the family has had or currently has cancer, so she was honored to be asked to join the board.

“There is such a need for assistance, especially for hourly workers,” she acknowledges. “I find TCF’s mission compelling for how they work quietly behind the sense to help friends and family in our region meet tough and highly varied needs that happen when someone is dealing with cancer. …. It will be an honor to serve with others in Morgan County and the Lake Country dealing with cancer.”


How to help or receive help

To learn the eligibility requirements or how to receive help, visit The Cancer Foundation’s website, and click on “programs.”

Tina Lasseter

The Cancer Foundation is funded totally by financial donations. To learn more about the Foundation itself, making a donation, information about filling bags for the Patient Pantry Project, paying tribute to a loved one through a memorial, or volunteering, visit the website mentioned in the previous paragraph and click on “community” or “support TCF”. Or call the Foundation at 706.353.4354 and speak to Laseter or Program Manager Katrina Moody or Operations Manager Brittany Davidson.


A great way to help both efforts is by spreading the word. Invite Laseter to speak at your club or organization meeting or follow The Cancer Foundation on Instagram and Facebook and share its posts.

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This story appeared in Lake Country's Health & Fitness magazine, Volume 6, Issue 1 and is the property of Smith Communications, Inc. No portions of the story or photos may be copied or used without written consent from the publisher.



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