Resources to Help with Cancer Costs

In In The News by Barbara Jacoby

By: Mary Sturgill


Cancer can be a devastating diagnosis, but it often is also financially debilitating. News 19 looked into what resources are available, when illnesses like cancer have consumed your life and driven you into debt.

16-year-old Shakera Franklin says right now her biggest fear is, “That I won’t wake up in the morning.”

That fear is because of her B-Cell Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. She has gone through more than four rounds of chemotherapy and radiation with little success. She is now in a trial for a new drug that has seen potential in adults.

Her mother, Senta Sutton says, when Shakera was first diagnosed, the cancer briefly went into remission in September of 2013, but came back in December that same year. Sutton tells News 19, only two weeks ago they got some good news, “They said it shrunk considerably and there is no new cancer cells. That was the best news we’ve had since 2013.”

Sutton says, as a single mother, she was forced to quit her job to care for her daughter after she had used all her family and medical leave. Her employer gave her a choice, come back, or be let go. Sutton said after that ultimatum, there was only one thing she could do. She says, “That’s my child. I had to be there. It’s hard; you are at work your thinking your child is in the hospital. I know I couldn’t do it.”

While Shakera fears the cancer might win, her mother shares those worries. But Sutton has other worries that grow with the monthly bills that keep piling up. She says, “When you don’t know if your lights are going to get cut off, You don’t know if your car is going to start so you can get to the doctor in Columbia. Medicaid is not gonna pay for her medicine this month, I gotta have money to pay for her medicine, I don’t know. It’s hard.”

Cancer costs have devastated this family financially. Sutton tells News 19, “We get a statement in the mail every time she goes to the doctor. It shows what medicaid paid and what medicaid doesn’t pay, and I’m responsible for what they don’t pay. I haven’t added it up, but It’s well over a million dollars.”

News 19 called the United Way to see what resources might be available for this single mother. Richard La Pratt with the United Way call center, SC211, says there are more than 30 agencies who could possibly help Sutton and her daughter.

He says, “Now she would be able to get into the preventive health program. Programs that are operated by DHEC which we can schedule those appointments. There may be opportunities for her because of her income level. She might be able to get into the vita program.” The Vita program helps people get more money back on their taxes so they have more resources each month. Those are in addition to the various agencies that offer help here and there.

LaPratt gave News 19 a list of agencies along with contact information, that might be able to help with everything from Sutton’s $1,000 light bill, to food, to rent. LaPratt says that its important to be proactive and know what issues you may soon face. He also says agencies and non-profits must follow their individual guidelines on giving. He says keep in mind that resources are constantly changing. the 211 call center employees are trained to be a safety net and help you find the right agencies, but once they connect a client, the client has to take action to get the help they need.

Sutton says,with a little help, she and Shakera can concentrate on kicking cancer’s butt. Shakera says she is ready for this, now three year battle, to be over. She says, “I just want all this to be over with so I can go on with my life and live a normal life.”

The drug trial Shakera is particpating in runs through October and then possibly she will have to have a bone marrow transplant. Sutton says they expect her daughter to be fighting the disease for another year, at least.

If you would like to help Shakera, they do have a gofundme page set up; Love for Shakera:

If you need help, call the United Way SC211 call center. 1-866-892-9211.