October, “Breast Cancer Awareness Month”, is a time to reflect on the
impact that breast cancer has on the lives of many Maine residents. The need for research
leading to eradication of this disease is urgent. But there is also a need to take
action to assist those currently dealing with a breast cancer diagnosis or in need
of breast health services. The Maine Breast Cancer Coalition’s Support
Service Fund strives to fill this need for Maine residents.
For the past eighteen years, the Maine Breast Cancer Coalition’s Support Service Fund has been an important “safety net” program for Maine people needing breast health or breast cancer related assistance and who have nowhere else to turn. This month marks an important milestone for the Fund: During the past eighteen years we have helped more than four thousand Maine residents with a total of more than $2,000,000 in grant awards.
The Support Service Fund began as an idea among a group of MBCC volunteers. When we published our first Maine Breast Cancer Resource Guide in 1997 and distributed the free guide around the state, we began to get phone calls from Maine women who desperately needed help and did not know where to turn. Some needed mammograms; some had been diagnosed with breast cancer and needed prostheses, mastectomy bras, or other items or services. Some of the people who called were uninsured, but many had insurance policies that didn’t cover what they needed or had high deductibles or co-pays.
A group of women from Maine Breast Cancer Coalition started talking about how we might help. What if there was a program to provide financial assistance to people who had exhausted all other possibilities? How would our small group of volunteers develop and manage such a program? How would we raise the money?
Around the same time as these conversations were taking place, Dan DeLuca, a champion Maine swimmer, was thinking about a way to honor his mother, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer, by raising money for a breast cancer cause. Dan contacted the president of Maine Breast Cancer Coalition and told her that he would swim the 32 miles across Moosehead Lake as a fundraising event to benefit those diagnosed with breast cancer.
Dan DeLuca’s first Moosehead swim in 1999 was marked by extreme weather, wind, and whitecaps that made Moosehead Lake look like the English Channel on a bad day. Halfway through the event, the swim had to be called off, but Dan still raised $17,000. The next year, he tried again and completed the first-ever swim across Moosehead Lake, raising $25,000 for the fledgling Support Service Fund.
Maine Breast Cancer Coalition had also written our first grant proposal to the Maine Affiliate of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. The $15,000 Komen grant and the funds Dan DeLuca raised from the Moosehead swims became our seed money. The Support Service Fund was launched in 2000.
During its first year, the Support Service Fund awarded close to fifty grants. Now in its eighteenth year, the demands on the Fund and the number of applicants have grown since that first year, but we continue our mission to provide prompt, confidential, and compassionate service to all applicants. Since the beginning of 2018 we have already received more than 200 applications, and expect to help more than 300 qualified applicants in this calendar year.
The Support Service Fund helps qualified applicants with a wide range of essential services or items including but not limited to breast imaging (mammography or ultrasound), chemotherapy, radiation treatment, lab/pathology fees, radiologist readings, surgery/ biopsy, physician/surgeon, hospital bills, anesthesia, travel expenses to treatments, breast cancer-related lymphedema compression garments, medication costs, prostheses/bras, wigs/turbans, and many other support services. We also provide emergency temporary living expenses such as rent, utilities, heating oil, and prepaid groceries cards to people in active treatment and temporarily too ill to work.
To find out more about the Support Service Fund or to apply for a grant, visit our website here to download and print an easy-to-complete application or call us at 207-945-0008 to request that an application be mailed to you. Call us if you need help completing the application.
Support Service Fund recipients wrote:
- “This program is wonderful. At a time of uncertainty and high stress, this help really matters.”
- “The easiest application ever! Thanks for easing my burden some.”
- “I am so grateful for this program, dealing with the treatments and cancer. Also, the after-effects can be very emotionally and financially straining. This wonderful organization takes some of that stress away.”
The Support Service Fund is currently supported by the Maine Breast Cancer Specialty License Plate Program; CDC Maine Breast and Cervical Health Program contract funds supported by a Cooperative Agreement from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; dedicated fundraisers by many Maine organizations and businesses, including long-term supporters Greater Bangor Women’s Ski and Snowboard Club, Maine Fraternal Order of Eagles Groups, F.R. Carroll Concrete, Douglas Dynamics (Fisher Engineering), and Hannaford Supermarkets; individual contributions by members and supporters of MBCC, and the dedication of our volunteers and our Support Service Fund program assistant.
In its 20 years of existence, the Support Service Fund of the Maine Breast Cancer Coalition has awarded grants totaling over $2.3 million to more than 4,500 Maine residents and for this accomplishment, we are so proud and grateful. We could not have done it without our incredibly dedicated Support Service Fund program assistant and the MBCC volunteers who have comprised the Support Service Fund committee through the years. Additionally, the generosity of our collaborative partners, granting agencies, volunteer members, business and individual fundraisers and supporters has been essential to our success and remarkable to witness.
As we begin the process of closing our Support Service Fund, we will continue to accept applications for those needing financial assistance until October 30, 2020. Updated information will continue to be available on our website at mainebreastcancer.org as well as our Facebook page at facebook.com/mainebreastcancer. We have not yet determined whether the coalition will continue to exist in a different capacity – perhaps as an advocacy-only organization. Those details will be shared as decisions are made.
Again, we thank you for your partnership and for your role in the Maine Breast Cancer Coalition’s contributions to those living with and at risk for breast cancer in Maine throughout our 26 years as a coalition and the 20 years of our Support Service Fund!
Normally, Bethany and other advocates from Maine travel to Washington, DC in May to participate in the annual training Summit and Lobby Day, where they meet with Maine’s congressional members or their staff. Although lobby day meetings were held virtually this year, advocates from Maine still met with Maine’s delegation to discuss legislative priorities that would positively impact research for a breast cancer vaccine as well as supports and resources for those living with and at risk for breast cancer. #NBCCOnTheHill
Some participants who fill out the survey will also be invited to participate in an optional sub-study, which includes a medical record review, a blood or saliva sample, and tumor analysis. Findings from the survey and optional sub-study may help the research team discover how to help people live longer after a diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer.
The study is recruiting internationally women and men age 18 or older who have been diagnosed with metastatic (or stage IV) breast cancer. Click here to learn more or to join the study.