Between co-pays, treatment costs, and work hours lost to illness, the financial burden of cancer can be overwhelming. If you’re struggling with day-to-day expenses during cancer treatment, there is help. For more than 15 years, two organizations, both founded by doctors, have provided financial assistance to area cancer patients. Now, the two foundations, Rocky Mountain Cancer Assistance (RMCA) and Ray of Hope Cancer Foundation, have joined with the goal of broadening their reach in the community.
“We realized that if we combine forces, we would be able to serve more cancer patients, and to serve them better,” says Tiffani Lennon, Ray of Hope’s president and chief executive officer. By combining efforts administrative costs decrease, which means more money is available for cancer patients in need. In the past, Ray of Hope spent 85 cents of every dollar raised on grants to patients, Lennon says. “Now, it’s 90 cents of every dollar.”
Inspired to help
In 1999, a group of Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers doctors and patients saw that the cost of cancer care created a burden for many patients and households. They created Rocky Mountain Cancer Assistance to help patients with everyday expenses. Since its creation, the non-profit has provided almost $3.8 million in cash assistance to more than 6,800 people receiving cancer treatment in Colorado.
Three years later, another oncologist was inspired by a 17-year-old fighting lymphoma to create the Ray of Hope Cancer Foundation. Raymond Wentz and his 19-year-old sister lived on their own, struggled to pay the rent, and often had no money for food, and no transportation to medical appointments. Since 2002, the Ray of Light foundation has given out more than $4 million to 4,500 people in need.
Help with everyday expenses
According to Lennon, almost all those who apply to Ray of Hope for assistance have health insurance. Neither organization pays for actual medical treatment. Instead, they help with other expenses, including:
- Health insurance premiums
According to Ray of Hope, some 57 percent of patients who apply for help list food as a pressing need.
Well-documented need for financial assistance with cancer care
Recent breakthroughs in cancer treatment, including immunotherapies and targeted therapies are bringing unprecedented hope to cancer patients. But those new treatments can carry a big price tag. In 2014, the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings noted that every new cancer drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that year cost $120,000 a year or more.
In a 2016 article, the medical journal Cancer reported that cancer patients paid, on average, between $1,730 and $4,727 a year in co-pays and other out-of-pocket expenses for treatment, depending on their insurance coverage. All that additional expense often comes as patients stop working or cut back on work hours because they’re ill.
How to apply for help, or to offer help
Ray of Hope and RMCA make applying for help easy. Applications can be mailed, or downloaded here.
Donating is easy, too, at rayofhopecolorado.org/donate/. And Ray of Hope has two major fundraisers each year, including the annual Masquerade for Hope Ball, held each October.
But most money comes from individual donors, many of who have been touched by cancer or have family members who have been.
Where ever they come from, donations are greatly appreciated, Lennon says. “We have about four boxes of thank you notes in the office. A lot of them say, ‘You’ve given me so much more than financial help. This gives me hope.’”