Joy Garrett never wanted to ask for financial help. She took pride in her work ethic and enjoyed her job at a distribution center warehouse in Union County.
But going through chemotherapy treatment following her cancer diagnosis in 2017 caused Garrett to leave her job – and that, in turn, led to severe financial hardship. She applied for disability, but the process would take several months.
“I tried to pinch pennies, but I finally ran out of money,” she said.
She was worried she wouldn’t be able to pay her utility bills.
Garrett turned to her Gibbs Cancer Center & Research Institute nurse navigator, Samantha Privatte, who encouraged her to apply for assistance from Spartanburg Regional Foundation’s Cancer Special Needs Fund. The fund supports patients who, like Garrett, experience financial challenges during the course of their treatment and recovery.
Privatte said it is not uncommon for the side effects of chemotherapy or the time required for repeated treatments to cause patients to miss work. And for those whose jobs don’t provide benefits such as ample sick leave or long-term disability insurance, the situation can reach a crisis point.
“We never want a patient going through cancer treatment to have to worry about whether they can keep their lights or water on at home,” Privatte said.
Nurse navigators at Gibbs Cancer Center refer patients to community organizations that provide short-term support for low-income residents.
“But if there’s not funding available, we can provide help through the Cancer Special Needs Fund," she said.
In addition to assistance with utilities, the fund may be used to provide patients with grocery or gas cards. In some cases, it helps patients with the cost of medications they need during treatment.
Privatte explained that requests are reviewed by a committee of cancer center staff members. They discuss the patient’s circumstances and needs before deciding whether to approve funding.
Garrett said that it was a tremendous relief to learn that she would receive support.
“Oh my, I was ecstatic,” Garrett said. “I honestly couldn’t believe there were people out there willing to help."
Garrett is battling colorectal cancer and continues to receive chemotherapy. The side effects are harsh, she said, but her caregivers have given her good reports.
Privatte said her work as a navigator is rewarding because it gives her the opportunity to know patients “on a personal level” and to give a wide range of support. “I can take the time to listen,” she said. “And sometimes a patient just needs someone to talk with.”
Privatte said Garrett has maintained a positive outlook during her fight against cancer.
“Her name is Joy, and she literally is a joy,” Privatte said.
Garrett appreciates all the support – clinical, emotional, and financial – that she has received at Gibbs Cancer Center.
“I’m 54-years-old, and I’d never had as much help in my whole life as I’ve had these past two years with my cancer,” she said.
Learn more or make a donation to Spartanburg Regional Foundation’s Cancer Special Needs Fund.