CancerAssist raises funds for disadvantaged patients

The nurses at Cancercare who strive to make a difference in cancer patients’ lives through the CancerAssist initiative. From left are Millicent Pharaoh, Lydia van Eyk and Kathy Killeen.                                                 Photo: KAILIN DANIELS
The nurses at Cancercare who strive to make a difference in cancer patients’ lives through the CancerAssist initiative. From left are Millicent Pharaoh, Lydia van Eyk and Kathy Killeen. Photo: KAILIN DANIELS

A NUMBER of disadvantaged cancer patients in the Nelson Mandela Metro and surrounding areas, are struggling financially to fight the battle for survival.

The Cancercare Oncology unit in Langenhoven Drive is striving to better the livelihood of each of these patients by providing care, counselling and now, financial support as well.

To financially assist these patients, CancerAssist is hosting a high tea event on October 20 to raise funds for patients.

For many of these patients, a cancer diagnosis does not only cause significant physical, emotional and psychological trauma, but can also result in huge financial burdens.

Lydia van Eyk, who has worked as a chemo nurse at Cancercare for over 20 years, was diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2016 and had to face a double mastectomy.

“I went for a check-up in 2015, as it was compulsory for all staff members. They found a lump in my right breast and when I went for a mammogram, they said that it is nothing to be concerned about. In 2016, the lump was still there and I went for a mammogram again.

“I was then diagnosed with breast cancer. As a chemo nurse, I wanted a double mastectomy. I just had that feeling,” Van Eyk said.

While in hospital she realised how fortunate she is to be alive with access to the best medical care and a medical aid fund to carry the expenses of her treatment.

“I had four surgeries for the double mastectomy in March. I pulled myself together knowingly that I was not the first woman diagnosed with breast cancer.

“There are other people with worse cases.”

She decided to become involved with the plight of cancer patients who struggle financially and the Veronica Minnie Cancer Support Trust, now known as CancerAsssit, came to mind.

Although most of the patients of the Cancercare Oncology Unit have medical aids, the financial situation of many of them has changed considerably over the past few years.

More and more patients lack the funds for the most basic necessities – a cancer process requires unplanned expenses not covered by the medical aids.

“Most of the patients in the chemo room have empty stomachs and some are forced to cancel appointments as they do not have the fees for transport. Many patients cannot afford even basic pain medication, as their medical aid benefits have been depleted.”

Cancercare started CancerAssist to assist patients in financial need, initially due to a bequest by one of their patients.

In March 2017, Lydia decided to make teddy bear broaches, each with a little heart on its chest – the colour of each heart represents a specific cancer.

“While I was in the hospital, a friend gave me a teddy bear to hug whenever I felt down. That sparked the Care Bear initiative.”

The bears are sold at R10 each and the proceeds go to CancerAssist.

Income generated from Care Bear sales have now reached R60 000 since March 2017.

Patients are referred to their unit social workers who ensure that assistance is only given to those in real financial need.

The objective is to assist them during their treatment process. Where possible, patients are referred to community resources for a more sustainable service.

“I cannot take all the credit for this initiative.

“I have a wonderful team who work with me to make this possible. I won’t be able to do it without Milly and Kathy, also chemo nurses at Cancercare. We want to continue helping those in need.”

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