The cost of medical care prices many people out of taking care of themselves, but one woman has made it her personal mission to help when it comes to mammograms.
Rita Bertler’s first breast tumor appeared in 1999.
Having witnessed her mother battle breast cancer, she knew what was at stake.
“My mother was a breast cancer victim. She had to have a mastectomy,” said Bertler, president and founder of Dollars for Mammograms. “I was scared to death.”
But her fear wasn’t only for her physical health.
“When I had my first breast tumor, I was uninsured,” Bertler said. “I went into a financial arrangement with every one of my providers. You have the anesthesiologist; you have the radiologist; you’ve got the surgeon.”
Bertler was able to take of her medical needs with the help of a credit card.
A second tumor showed up five months later.
In the waiting room, Bertler listened to other women’s stories of struggling to pay their medical bills.
“I like to call them my working poor women,” Bertler said. “When I would say to them, ‘Why didn’t you get a mammogram?’ They would say to me, ‘I couldn’t afford one.'”
Bertler said she told her husband she had to do something about it.
“So I got the idea of a no-cost mammogram program,” she said.
Bertler started the non-profit Dollars for Mammograms. The organization helps people who can’t afford their care get no-cost mammograms, breast ultrasounds and biopsies.
Since 2000, she has run the organization out of a room in her house.
That is changing now.
“For the first time in 21 years, I’m pleased to announce we are now going to have a physical presence,” Bertler said.
The organization will open its new office at the Englewood Community Care Clinic, which will make the program more visible and accessible.
And she’s not done yet.
“Our goal is to someday have a women’s wellness center right here in this clinic,” Bertler said.
Dollars for Mammograms serves people in Englewood and the surrounding communities. If you live in other Southwest Florida communities like Lee, Collier, Hendry or Glades counties, Partners for Breast Cancer Care offers similar services.