CoxHealth Foundation keeps help for women local

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Funds may be deciding factor for some women's breast care treatments

The CoxHealth Foundation has been helping area women with breast cancer prevention and battles for many years, and President Lisa Alexander is hoping to keep the trend going.

The Springfield-based foundation, which covers 21 counties in southwest Missouri, started 22 years ago, when an employee in the women's center, Joyce Schwandt, was diagnosed with breast cancer and eventually died from the disease. She had insurance, but got so sick she could not continue to work.

"Joyce's coworkers started a golf tournament to raise money to help her, and we decided to continue the tournament to reach out and grow the foundation to help hundreds of women in need," Alexander said. "Breast cancer is one of the top three cancers, and one year we'll have 500 women we help, then 700 the next year and 300 the year after that, so it varies and depends on a lot of things."

Alexander said it all started when a woman comes in for a mammogram or senses a problem, the foundation will cover that cost if the patient has a lower income or is not covered by insurance.

"If they find an issue, we want it diagnosed," she said. "Lots of insurers pay for the first mammogram, but coverage generally ends at diagnosis, so the Foundation helps to cover those costs.

"This is for women who, say, don't have the money and can't afford care, but also can't afford not to have care when it may be solved quickly or we can get to it before it progresses any further."

Alexander said many times, a mammogram can turn up a false positive, but it's still best to do the testing to make sure. She said in some cases, the Foundation can be the deciding factor whether a woman with breast cancer gets care or not.

"There was one woman in southwest Missouri, from the Verona area, who had a $10,000 deductible and could not afford her chemo treatments or surgery, and she was going to completely pass on all of it," Alexander said. "She said between that and losing her family's farm, she did not want to put it all on the line."

Alexander said all types of women come to the Foundation for help, and the Foundation's breast cancer fund is there to give women help in getting things going.

"We still have the golf tournament every year, and employees and companies donate to it," she said. "This is the only resource of its kind I know of, and we partner with the Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks to help patients with things like gas, food and bills, while we do the hospital bills."

Alexander said the needs is as diverse as the women who come in for care, and healthcare changes are affecting things, like the Affordable Care Act putting more focus on preventative care.

"It depends a lot on the economy and society, and how many women stop to take care of themselves," Alexander said. "We like to keep the fund growing, and there's never enough money. We can go through the golf tournament money in two or three months time, depending on the need."

On the first week of every month, the Foundation's committee, comprised of eight members including caseworkers, nurses and representatives from the women's center and from the Foundation, has a meeting to determine what the Foundation will cover.

"We review the applications, look at a full picture of the story, and an effort is made to help the women," Alexander said. "I know we have every county represented, and we've had several women from the Monett and Cassville areas who have come to speak at our events in the past to tell donors about the impact of their generosity."

Alexander said breast cancer is so prevalent nowadays, she does not know of anyone who has not been touched by the disease in one way or another.

"I have the most rewarding job on Earth because I am able to reach out to people and hear from so many places," she said. "I'm also able to say 'yes' a lot, and that's incredibly rewarding."

Alexander said the Foundation also has funds to help with other things, like getting women wigs or nutritional assistance.

"We look at all the funds available and try to help in as many ways we can," she said. "But, we can only do it if we have the resources."

Alexander said she would like to thank the donors to the Foundation, including the Cassville Democrat this month, for allowing her to say yes as much as she does.

"We have women who call that say they've called here and there and everywhere and no one will help them," Alexander said. "It's rewarding for us to be able to say we can."

For more information about the CoxHealth Foundation, people may visit www.coxhealthfoundation.com, or call 417-268-7150.

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