This year, I am most grateful for the fact that our team has been able to relieve that financial burden for more patients than ever…
By Dana Dornsife
I first became aware of the extreme financial burden to access a cancer clinical trial when my brother-in-law Mike had cancer more than 15 years ago. Clinical trials often require frequent and long distance travel (an average 544 miles for Lazarex Cancer Foundation patients every 3 to 4 weeks) And the costs to travel add up fast.
This year, I am most grateful for the fact that our team has been able to relieve that financial burden for more patients than ever – providing reimbursements for travel expenses associated with travel to clinical trials – parking, tolls, cabs, flights, hotels – for the patient and a travel companion. Each year we help more people than the year before. However, in 2022 we saw explosive growth: a 40% increase in the number of patients who asked for help. While I’m deeply troubled that financial barriers still exist, I’m also proud that our organization is here to help.
I’m grateful we can help more VIPs (very important patients) than ever
Through our CARE Program we find clinical trials for cancer patients and reimburse patients for the costs to travel to them. This work is the heart and soul of what we do at Lazarex, and the need is immense.
- In 2021 we provided travel reimbursements for 1,145 people
- As 2022 comes to a close, we will have reimbursed nearly 1,750
I’m grateful every time a patient lets us know how much this reimbursement means to them – and we hear it often! For some, clinical trial treatment shrinks cancer burden and saves lives. For many others, it offers the gift of time that is precious for so many. Additional weeks, months and years allow people to attend children’s athletic events, plays and graduations, go to weddings, birthday parties and holiday gatherings, see sports games and cultural events and spend valuable time with those they love. What we know for sure is access to advanced treatment is essential for everyone, no matter the size of their bank account.
I’m grateful for partnerships
I’m also grateful for the people doing this important work with us. In 2022 we expanded meaningful and impactful partnerships to bolster our Lazarex Cancer Wellness HUBs. At these locations in Philadelphia, Los Angeles and the San Francisco East Bay, we are working with trusted community partners like churches, community centers and YMCAs to provide communities in need with a bridge to cancer resources through culturally-tailored messaging and specialized programming.
We know that people of color are disproportionately affected by cancer at alarming rates and there is, unfortunately, a never-ending list of statistics proving it:
- African Americans are 40% more likely to die from colon cancer.
- Black women have the highest death rate of breast cancer
- Black men are twice as likely as White men to die from prostate cancer.
- People who are more educated are also less likely to die from colorectal cancer.
In the face of these daunting truths, I am grateful that through our Cancer Wellness HUBs we have the opportunity to engage with at-risk communities of color and give them a voice in their health future, especially since 40% of cancers are preventable. The more we can do to fight late-stage diagnosis through education, awareness, screening and more – the better prognosis there is for survival.
I’m grateful for a shared purpose
I’m grateful to all who are committed to community work. Our Neighborhood and Faith Ambassadors, local churches, politicians and so many more work with us each day to impact lives. Together we are building a strong network with the reach, coverage and engagement that is needed to move the needle on health disparities and improve health outcomes.
I’m grateful I get to see this work up close at our HUBs in Philadelphia and California, and I’m grateful to all who do this hard work with us every day, knowing that results don’t come quickly. Even so, we are united in the belief that this approach works when it’s done properly and tailored to communities. Because of that commitment we are starting to see maturity and staying power in our programs. In Philadelphia, for example, we’ve expanded our reach from one zip code to FIVE!. This is what it looks like when you take time to build trust – and for that, I am deeply grateful!
Together we have accomplished so much this year. But with more than 600,000 Americans dying from cancer a year, there is much more we want and need to do. So, in the end, I’m also grateful for another year to move our mission forward.
Dana Dornsife is the Founder & Chief Mission and Strategy Officer of Lazarex Cancer Foundation. Learn more about the organization’s purpose, mission and impact – and how you can support it – at Lazarex.org.