Ada was alone and living in a shelter when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had no family support system and no way to get to her numerous medical appointments.
“A staff person at the shelter connected me with the American Cancer Society,” Ada says, “and ACS gave me the tools and support I needed to understand my diagnosis. I felt calm and without fear thanks to them. With the help and compassion of ACS, I was able to receive free transportation to my life-saving treatments and a place to stay closer to my cancer center.”
Last year, Community Health System helped fund the American Cancer Society’s “Road to Recovery” program — a service that provides rides to and from appointments for low-income and disadvantaged cancer patients. Community also supported the Cancer Society’s temporary lodging program as part of its $175 million community benefit work in fiscal year 2021. The funding provided for 635 rides and 153 hotel rooms for low-income cancer patients in Fresno, says Jennifer Giese, American Cancer Society’s cancer control strategic partnerships manager.
As a non-profit health system, Community invests 10% or more of its operating expenses back into the region as “community benefit” to train new doctors and nurses, for charity care and unreimbursed medical care for the poor and underserved, and for community education and outreach.
While Fresno County has lower cancer rates for every type of cancer except lung cancer compared to the rest of California, patients here struggle with access to care because of high poverty and low insurance rates. During focus groups that Community conducted in 2019 among Black cancer patients to assess health needs, the challenge most often cited was transportation to treatment.
“When I was diagnosed with lymphoma I did not know how I was going to get to treatment because my family could not take off work,” explains Feliza. A friend helped connect her to the Road to Recovery program. “When I found out that I was going to be able to get to treatment thanks to the American Cancer Society I was ecstatic! I no longer had to worry and can now focus on my treatments and getting better.”
Connecting patients to local cancer facility
Community Cancer Institute’s social workers and nurse navigators often connect patients to American Cancer Society’s various support programs. “It helped save my life, because I am now cancer free,” Sara says of that social worker referral. “I had no family in the area and was not sure how I would get to my (breast cancer) treatment appointments. I never realized a program like this existed.”
Part of the Community Health System, the cancer institute on the campus of Clovis Community Medical Center brings outpatient services, leading cancer technology, plus a myriad of support services under one roof to provide easier access and expedite treatment. In collaboration with UCSF, ground-breaking research and more than 30 clinical trials take place there, making the latest available treatments available to Valley patients.
Peter had a similar experience: “I am eternally grateful to the American Cancer Society for supplying transportation for me when I was battling lung cancer the summer of 2019. The entire team was extremely courteous and professional in assisting me in the multiple doctor appointments I had during an extremely difficult time in my life. And thank you to my medical team for referring me to ACS services. I didn’t know they existed!”