Compassionate Care Fund eases financial burden on cancer patients

Compassionate Care Fund eases financial burden on cancer patients

What is the Northwest Wisconsin Cancer Center? The Compassionate Care Fund eases financial burdens.

The Northwest Wisconsin Cancer Center is a place Katey Abbott knows all too well.

It’s at the Tamarack Health Ashland Medical Center in collaboration with Essentia Health.

Abbott lives on Madeline Island, so a visit there requires a ferry ride and a 30-minute drive into Ashland. But she had to go because the clinic on the island couldn’t figure out what was wrong.

“For a long time, I just felt sick,” she said. “And it was hard to explain that to people because you just don’t feel well.”

The 39-year-old says at the time, she was also depressed.

“And so I didn’t care what was wrong,” Abbott said. “And luckily I have a fantastic family who realized that was my first problem.”

They dealt with that and then ran more tests to find out why she was feeling so fatigued, groggy, and sad.

“They found out I had a very large tumor inside of me. And then once they did all the other fun tests, they found out I had Stage 3 cervical cancer,” she said.

That was September 2022. Cancer had spread to her lymph nodes but not beyond that. The tumor was inoperable, so her care team set a goal to do 25 rounds of radiation and at least five rounds of chemotherapy.

“Within less than two weeks, I had a port put in my chest and started receiving chemo and radiation immediately,” she said.

Most of her treatment happened in the bright rooms at the Northwest Wisconsin Cancer Center. It finished in January 2024.

“This has been a physical toll, an emotional toll, and a financial toll on me that I never thought I was going to have to go through,” Abbott said. “And this place has been the biggest blessing of my entire life. And I don’t know where I’d be without them and the community here.”

The financial piece is where the Compassionate Care Fund comes in.

“I would say probably 75 percent of our patients need some help at some time. And some don’t even know that they need the help,” Nurse Jennifer Mrnak said.

The fund, which is managed through the Essentia Health Foundation, can provide things like gas cards, grocery money, or even electric bills. They helped pay for Abbott’s hotel stay when she needed to be in Duluth for weeks to receive hyperbaric treatments.

“I’ve been employed my entire life, and my husband is employed, and we’re doing everything we can. But even we came to a crossroads where we had to stop and think, what are we going to cover, what are we not going to cover, and what are we going to do to move forward?” she said. “No one should have to come to that.”

This Saturday, Raffle For a Cause will raise money for the Compassionate Care Fund.

“The money is staying here with our patients,” Operations Manager Amanda McKuen said.

The fundraiser goes from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, June 15, at the Tamarack Health Ashland Medical Center Campus. There will be food, games, a 50/50 raffle, and bucket raffles. Little Way will play music from 4-7 p.m. Raffle drawings happen at 5 p.m.

Abbott’s tumor, “Big Bertha,” is still there, but it’s now half the size.

“Because of them, I’m here,” she said.

Donations are also accepted online. Donors can designate that it should go to the Compassionate Care Fund.