Easing the Burden of Breast Cancer

Patients in need are receiving financial assistance from “I Believe In Pink,” a local nonprofit.

Easing the Burden on Breast Cancer Patients

“I Believe in Pink” founders Stacy Spera (center, photo at left, and left, photos above); Tracey Destribats (on Spera’s left, photo at left, and center, photos above); and Denise Mariani (on Spera’s right, photo at left, and right, photos above). NOTE: These photos were taken before mask and social distancing recommendations were in place.

Worrying about finances when you’re fighting for your life is the last thing you want to do. But for some breast cancer patients, that’s the reality. To the rescue: “I Believe in Pink,” a nonprofit group that partners with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) Hamilton to help breast cancer patients in need.

Recently, the organization helped pay for a patient’s hormone therapy.

“She was taking the drug every other day because she couldn’t afford the out-of-pocket cost,” says Amy German, Director, Cancer Center, RWJUH Hamilton. “We were able to pay the difference, helping to prevent her chances of a recurrence.”

The hospital was also able to purchase a chair lift for a patient with an aggressive form of breast cancer who was too weak to get to the second floor of her home.

Another patient with advanced breast cancer had lost her job and was having trouble paying her rent.

"We paid two months’ rent,” says German.

The hospital has also provided transportation for patients who need a ride to treatment appointments.

“Breast cancer patients already have enough stress and worries, so if we can help improve their outcome or quality of life, we’re happy to do that,” says German.

Helping the Neediest Patients

“I Believe in Pink” was launched in 2018 by Stacy Spera, a breast cancer survivor, and her best friend, Tracey Destribats, a local bakery owner. Local attorney Denise Mariani was also instrumental in forming the organization.

The mission was established after Spera received a $900 bill for a compression bra, which is used to treat lymphedema, in which swelling occurs as a result of the removal of lymph nodes. The bra was covered by Spera’s insurance, but she wondered how people who don’t have insurance can afford items like this.

“We wanted to start an organization to help the neediest patients,” says Spera.

Two years ago, Spera and Destribats met with a nurse navigator at RWJUH Hamilton, and they agreed to raise funds for hospital patients.

“I Believe in Pink” donated the first $10,000 it raised to RWJUH Hamilton for items such as wigs, turbans, headscarves, food, gas, and rent.

“It was a win-win,” recalls Spera, who works as Chief of Operations at New Jersey’s Department of Community Affairs.

Several local businesses have provided funds for “I Believe in Pink,” and there’s a fundraising event every year. In 2018, the organization held a “Hats Off to Breast Cancer” event, in which attendees wore their favorite hats. Last year, the event was called “Let’s Tackle Breast Cancer,” and the organization sold football shirts to guests.

In total, the organization has raised $20,000 for RWJUH Hamilton patients.

“Patients are humbled and touched by any kind of support we give them,” says German, who notes that there have been more requests for financial assistance since the COVID-19 pandemic began. “We want to give them the best chance for a positive outcome.”

For more information about “I Believe in Pink,” visit www.Ibelieveinpink.org. To support Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton, visit Support My Community.