by Casey Young
You have cancer. A short but life-changing sentence you never want to hear. Receiving a cancer diagnosis brings fear, anger, and confusion. Will my insurance cover my treatment? How do I get all my affairs in order? What will happen to my family? Those are just a few thoughts that run through our patients’ minds.
“That’s why our organization was founded, to help cancer patients with the day-to-day challenges of cancer,” says Chris Williams, executive director of CancerLINC.
CancerLINC, a Richmond nonprofit, connects local cancer patients with volunteer attorneys, financial planners, and others whose services are provided on a pro bono basis to help patients address the problems they face – debt, employment insecurity, insurance denials, end of life planning, and other similar situations.
The American Cancer Society estimated 1.8 million new cancer cases diagnosed and 606,520 cancer deaths in the United States for 2020.
“I basically felt like I had been given a death sentence, ” said CancerLINC client Susan.
Susan was diagnosed with melanoma in 2014 and found CancerLINC through a webinar series lead by VCU Massey Cancer Center. Over the past twenty-four years, it is estimated that more than 10,000 cancer patient and families have received assistance from CancerLINC.
Most CancerLINC’s patients require life planning services such as a will, power of attorney or advanced medical directive and community resources to help cover basic needs. In CancerLINC’s most recent fiscal year, 96 percent of CancerLINC clients said the services provided allowed them to focus more time and energy on their health.
“When you’re hit with a diagnosis out of the blue, it’s difficult to deal with and you’re planning for events you might not have planned for. So having CancerLINC’s help took some of the burden off of me. And having that done allowed me to focus on my health,” states Susan.
CancerLINC and COVID-19
The long-term effects of the pandemic have created a surge in need, especially for social services. Legal and financial issues also have increased as a result of the worsening economic impact on families.
“CancerLINC’s services are more important than ever,” says Williams. “CancerLINC has broadened its services, at least temporarily, to help patients with food and housing insecurity issues and has expanded its network of community resource partners to help patients with these issues.”
Durig the pandemic, CancerLINC adapted its services to accommodate patient needs. Recently, CancerLINC has helped patients by requesting necessary accommodations from their employers. Additionally, CancerLINC has helped them by signing wills and other life planning documents at the patient’s home or even in the parking lot of the office – meeting patients where they are safely.
The Commonwealth Fund estimates that as many as 7.7 million workers lost their job. With patients facing financial struggles and needing financial assistance because of the pandemic, CancerLINC has connected clients to broad spectrum of community organizations that provide assistance with food, housing, transportation and medical expenses. In addition, several dedicated CancerLINC volunteers have delivered groceries, picked up medication, and more for home-bound patients in need.
Any cancer patient who resides in Central and Southside Virginia, or who is receiving treatment through a Richmond-area cancer care group is eligible for CancerLINC’s services. In fiscal year 2020 (ending June 30, 2020), CancerLINC helped 459 patients and their families with 579 legal and financial issues. Approximately 79 percent of the patients served live below the Federally-defined poverty level, making them eligible to receive pro bono services from the more than 175 skilled and compassionate CancerLINC volunteer professionals.
CancerLINC is unique; no other organization in Virginia offers these services to cancer patients. The organization does not charge patients for its services, depending solely on contributions from the community.
4 Ways You Can Support CancerLINC
1. Attend a fundraising event, or sign up now to participate in the Cornhole Challenge, Saturday, May 21, at City Stadium.
2. Become a volunteer.
3. Tell your family, friends, and neighbors about CancerLINC.
4. Make a gift in honor or in memory of someone.
To learn more about CancerLINC’s services, visit cancerlinc.org.