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Toledo Clinic Foundation offers financial help to struggling cancer patients

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    The Toledo Clinic, 4235 Secor Road Monday in Toledo.

    The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
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  • toledoclinic20

    The Toledo Clinic, 4235 Secor Road, Monday in Toledo.

    The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
    Buy This Image

Cancer patients at the Toledo Clinic struggling with nonmedical expenses can turn to a new foundation supported by the clinic’s staff and outside donations.

Sue Mahoney-Stombaugh, a nurse practitioner in the oncology department, said what is now the Toledo Clinic Foundation began informally about five years ago, when nurses started sharing stories of patients falling behind with rent, utilities, or transportation expenses.

“The nursing staff in the oncology department saw a need for patients who were just having financial issues,” she said. “They couldn’t pay their light bill because they couldn’t work. ... Different things caused them difficulty to meet all their needs.”

Such financial need is not uncommon. Researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University found almost one-third of cancer survivors experience financial hardships as a result of their diagnosis or treatment, according to a 2016 study in CANCER, an American Cancer Society journal.

Toledo Clinic staff members raised money through a variety of means, including bake sales, craft shows, and paying $5 to wear jeans to work on Fridays, but they never could raise large sums because the donations weren’t tax exempt, Mrs. Mahoney-Stombaugh said. So they secured nonprofit status and formed a board. Now, the goal is to reach more patients. 

“I feel bad because patients often wait until they are desperate and things are going to be turned off,” she said. “I can’t imagine dealing with chronic illness like cancer and then having to be so concerned with finances; it would just be awful.”

Rent assistance and money for utilities are the two most common needs, she said, though sometimes funds also can help pay for medications. Food needs are directed to Nightingales Harvest, a Toledo pantry for families with cancer.

To date, they have been able to give about $200 per year to patients, though Mrs. Mahoney-Stombaugh would like to see that increase if donations pick up. In the past they’ve helped between 25 and 30 patients per year, she said.

Mike D’Eramo, chief administrative officer for the Toledo Clinic, said forming the foundation has raised awareness for the effort and brought outside expertise. Though the program is currently available only to cancer patients, Mr. D’Eramo said he’d like to expand it to others who have had major surgeries or other “debilitating” situations resulting in lost work time or high medical bills.

“When they are going through oncology treatment, every penny counts,” he said. “If there is a way for the clinic to help mitigate that, even in a little way to help a patient with transportation costs, it’s significant.”

The nonprofit has begun receiving some corporate donations, a practice they’d like to grow. The foundation accepts cash or check, but is working on adding donations by credit card. To learn more about the foundation as a donor or potential recipient, visit toledoclinicfoundation.org or call 419-479-5998.

Contact Lauren Lindstrom at llindstrom@theblade.com, 419-724-6154, or on Twitter @lelindstrom.

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