Nearly one out of three people in the U.S. will have cancer during their lifetimes, according to the American Cancer Society. But how many of those diagnosed know how to navigate the financial burden of this life-threatening disease?
Funds generated by Relay for Life not only benefit the American Cancer Society’s groundbreaking research, they also support cancer patients by guiding them through the financial and insurance issues of battling cancer.
Indian Land will host its first Relay for Life on March 24, from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m., at Indian Land High School’s football stadium. The goal is to raise $50,000. The “signature event” of the ACS according to its website, Relay involves team fundraising in which team members secure pledges and take turns walking around a track or designated path.
Heath Springs resident Lisa Plyler didn’t know much about Relay for Life prior to her diagnosis. She was familiar with the fundraiser as a means for cancer research, but she wasn’t aware of all of the services the American Cancer Society provides to cancer patients.
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Known as “Ms. Lisa - Bus 1,” Plyler’s days start at 3:45 a.m. to ensure the Lancaster County students along her bus route arrive to school on time – something she’s glad she can still do after her battle with breast cancer eight years ago.
“In July 2010, I rolled over in bed at night and felt something pop. A couple days later a knot came up on my breast and it got a little bit bigger and then it went away,” Plyler said. “I didn’t think any more about it, but about two weeks later it came back – and it kept getting bigger and bigger.”
With no insurance, she went to the nearest urgent care facility where a doctor treated her with antibiotics for about a month and then referred her to a specialist.
“(The specialist) already knew I didn’t have any health insurance, so they had the forms for me to fill out to get special Medicaid to take care of this,” she said.
Plyler was 38 years -old when she was diagnosed with spindle cell carcinoma, a rare type of breast tumor. By the time she underwent her mastectomy on Oct.1, 2010, the lump had grown into the size of a softball.
Following her surgery, Plyler underwent nine sets of chemotherapy every two weeks and 35 days or radiation. She returned to work with a clean bill of health in 2011.
“As far as I know I’m cancer free,” she said. “I haven’t been back to the doctor. I know I should be, but again, I don’t have health insurance.”
Fortunately for her, Plyler qualified for a special type of Medicaid to help cover the costs of her treatment. And friends and family pitched in to handle what they could.
With talk of Medicaid cuts in Congress, cancer patients across the country are concerned about how these changes could affect their ability to receive treatment.
U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman, (R-Dist. 5) said Medicaid provides healthcare access to the nation’s must vulnerable populations and his focus is on ensuring that federal and state funds are spent through the Medicaid program in the most efficient manner possible.
“When it comes to Medicaid, I want to work with the states to eliminate wasteful spending so that those who need it continue to have access to life saving care,” Norman said, “but those who are abusing the system no longer frivolously spend taxpayer dollars.”
Cancer patients incur other expenses besides the costs of treatment. Relay for Life also supports cancer patients with out-of-pockets costs such as rides to cancer treatment appointments and free lodging.
“In South Carolina alone in 2016, the American Cancer Society provided more than 1,400 rides to treatment and other cancer-related appointments through our road-to-recovery program,” American Cancer Society senior community development manager Kaleb Keefe said. “We also provided nearly 11,000 free nights at our Hope Lodge communities and more than 1,000 free or reduced nights with our hotel partners, saving patients more than $1,890,000.”
After facing the financial hurdles of cancer firsthand, Plyler wants to help support other cancer patients like herself. She participated in her first Relay for Life in 2012 and has volunteered every year since.
“Another lady in my position might walk in a door somewhere at a doctor’s office and not have health insurance and she needs help,” Plyler said. “My $100 might help her get what she needs. It helps people out like me.”
Stephanie Jadrnicek: firstname.lastname@example.org