Making a difficult journey easier

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

BCFO offers assistance to patients, families

When someone is diagnosed with breast cancer, aside from the medical treatments and prognosis, a plethora of questions and concerns fill their minds.

“What happens now?”

Tuckness

“What happens to my family while I am sick?”

“How will I pay my bills?”

One area resource, the Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks in Springfield, can provide some of the answers.

Allyson Tuckness, chief operating officer at BCFO, said the organization, founded by Mary Beth O’Reilly in 2000, was established to help patients in need.

“Mary Beth O’Reilly, a three-time cancer survivor, met Kristen O’Brien Hardy, who had also been diagnosed with breast cancer,” Tuckness said. “Hardy was diagnosed at the age of 27 and lost her battle to cancer at the age of 31. Kristen’s friends and family who desired to make memorial contributions on her behalf wanted funds to be available to assist others dealing with breast cancer. They also wanted the funds to stay local.”

Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks was established to provide help to local families impacted by breast cancer. The first contribution was made by O’Reilly and matched by Kristen’s surgeon, Dr. Joni Scott, in tribute to all the patients Scott has treated for breast cancer. Other breast cancer survivors and friends of Kristen also made donations in her memory.

“Clients are referred to us through referrals from a hospital or doctor,” Tuckness said. “They must be currently undergoing treatment in order to qualify for assistance.”

Areas in which BCFO can assist patients with a financial need includes rent or mortgage payments, auto repairs, utility assistance, fuel to drive to and from treatment, propane for heating the home and car payments and insurance premiums. Clients can also receive lymphedema garments needed as a result of their cancer treatment.

“Applications are reviewed by our committee, which is comprised of doctors and nurses who meet monthly and who review the applicant’s treatment plan and income level, then decide what type of assistance is most needed,” Tuckness said. “Payments are made directly to the vendor.”

All monies for the organization are raised through fundraisers and individual donations.

“Hooked on Dance is our largest fundraiser of the year,” Tuckness said. “We also host the Time to Share fashion show and Circle for Life in Springfield, and the Pink Ribbon Gala in Joplin.”

All funds raised through these events are used for client assistance. Operating costs and salaries for office staff materials are garnered through the operation of five regional license offices.

BCFO also offers free mammogram screenings for qualified applicants. Women and men who are under-insured or who have no insurance coverage can receive screenings through any of 16 vendors in southwest Missouri.

“Early detection is a surefire way to catch this early and save lives,” Tuckness said. “We provide vouchers for eligible clients to receive these mammograms. There are no excuses for people to not get screened. We know that 80 percent of these cases are not genetically related, that there is no family history indicating a cause for concern.”

BCFO offers a mentoring program for newly diagnosed patients who are overwhelmed and in need of someone who has undergone the same journey to survival.

Mentors, who are all volunteers, offer information, educational materials, and, more importantly, serve as a listening ear for women and emotional support for women facing the frightening diagnosis. Clients are paired with survivors of similar age and lifestyles who can understand and help provide answers for those newly diagnosed.

The organization also has a children’s fund, to assist families with school supplies, clothing, holiday gifts, child care and dental needs. Each application is determined on a case-by-case basis.

Most importantly, BCFO offers a community education program aimed at providing information on the importance of monthly self-exams and recognizing the signs and symptoms of breast cancer.

“It can affect anyone, at any age,” Tuckness said. “ Breast cancer doesn’t care who it impacts. Our youngest client was 20. It can happen to the old or young, regardless of ethnic background, or socio-economic level. We know one in eight women and one in 5,000 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. Their survival rate is dependent on how early it is caught.”

Although each client has a $5,000 cap on the amount of assistance received, if they are diagnosed a second time, they can again be eligible for services.

“We serve 31 counties in southwest Missouri,” Tuckness said. “The great thing about our services is that clients don’t have to come to our office here in Springfield to receive services. They can apply for assistance through our website at BCFO.org.”

For more information, people may call BCFO at 417-862-3838 or visit bcfo.org.

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