Breast health fund pays for SWFL patients’ life-saving cancer treatment

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Outside the cancer treatment center at Lee Health. (Credit: Channing Frampton/WINK News)
Outside the cancer treatment center at Lee Health. (Credit: WINK News/Channing Frampton)

A cancer diagnosis can ruin a patient’s finances. For those who can not afford the treatment, the medical expenses could become a death sentence.

Lexa Donnelly, a mother of five, lives with Stage 4 breast cancer.

“We essentially had an atomic bomb dropped on us,” Donnelly said. That bomb she is referring to is the cost of treatment. “We are trapped by our co-pays and our deductible,” she added.

Thankfully for Donnelly and 46 other patients in Southwest Florida, the Sharon MacDonald Breast Health Fund pays for the treatment.

“It has kept me in treatment,” Donnelly said, “because I stopped treatment due to those costs.”

Tammy Zinn is a nurse with Lee Health. The Sharon MacDonald Breast Health Fund, which is affiliated with the Lee Health Foundation, also helps patients find the assistance they need. Zinn told WINK News the fund pays for all of their life-saving cancer treatment.

Since the Sharon MacDonald Breast Health Fund was established in 2017, donors have contributed more than $290,000 for treatments. The hospital determines who gets financial assistance with an application process that is based on your income.

For those patients that do receive help with their treatment, the money is well received as the cost of breast cancer nationwide was over $16 billion in 2010 and is expected to be more than $20 billion by next year, according to research published by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Keeping patients in treatment is key to beating the disease. Without it, Radiation Oncologist Dr. Kristina Mirabeau-Beale warns, “patients fall through the cracks, and some cancers can grow pretty rapidly.”

However, the donations allocated by the fund are not just saving the patients’ lives. It allows patients like Donnelly to continue caring for their children.

“It meant food on the table for my family,” Donnelly said. “It is an absolute gift from the heart.”

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