We want to help patients meet financial challenges so they can focus on healing. We want to relieve the helplessness nurses and social workers feel when they can’t help the patients in their care. JAF is an important partner in that goal.Frank Panzarella, vice president of Oncology Services
“No one saves for cancer.” With that simple statement, former New England Patriot, Super Bowl Champion and cancer survivor Joe Andruzzi explains the financial challenge facing many cancer patients.
The National Cancer Institute reports that cancer patients are at the highest risk of financial toxicity – the negative impact of treatment on ability to pay household bills. As treatment keeps them and caregivers out of work, housing, utility, fuel and food bills continue to pile up.
Andruzzi and his wife Jen had a front-row view of the physical and emotional toll taken by financial toxicity. They saw it in their philanthropic work with pediatric brain cancer patients and their families. They heard about it from fellow patients as Andruzzi underwent treatment for non-Hodgkin’s Burkitt’s lymphoma.
In 2008, the Andruzzis established the Joe Andruzzi Foundation (JAF). “To date, we have provided over $10 million in grants to support more than 40,000 patients and their family members throughout New England,” says Danielle Fish, vice president of JAF. “Our goal is to help and bring hope to patients of any age, in active treatment for any type of cancer.”
In the past 5 years, JAF has provided $300,000 to 400 Dartmouth Cancer Center patients. To celebrate that relationship and its 15th anniversary, JAF kicked off a road trip with a visit to the Norris Cotton Cancer Care Pavilion in Lebanon on September 13th.
“The visit was a great chance for us to meet with patients and reconnect with the nurses and social workers who help us support them,” says Fish. “Joe knows what it’s like to undergo cancer treatment and looks forward to visiting with patients and sharing his Super Bowl rings. Our staff was also eager to meet with Cancer Center staff. We wanted to thank them for their efforts and get ideas for making our processes even better.”
Patients in need of non-medical financial support are referred to JAF by social workers. “We fill out all the paperwork, compile the necessary documents and outline the need,” says Catherine Reed, Continuing Care Manager. Eligible recipients can receive up to $800 annually. Grocery cards for five major chains are available in amounts based on family size.
“Our nurses and social workers get to know their patients well,” says Miriam Dowling-Schmitt, senior director of Nursing Operations at Dartmouth Cancer Center. “It’s so frustrating to learn that a patient is worried about affording transportation to and from treatment or rent or firewood. JAF gives our staff a way to say, ‘We can help’.”
Reed now refers to JAF as her steadfast, reliable, ‘go-to’ for grants that have a meaningful impact. “A JAF grant allowed a patient to get a tooth extracted so that he could receive a life-saving stem cell transplant,” she recalls. “Another helped pay property taxes for a lymphoma patient. And, when a liver cancer patient said, ‘I will have to work until the day I die,’ a JAF grant helped cover his car expenses.”
“Reducing financial toxicity is part of Dartmouth Cancer Center’s annual strategic goal,” says Frank Panzarella, vice president of Oncology Services. “We want to help patients meet financial challenges so they can focus on healing. We want to relieve the helplessness nurses and social workers feel when they can’t help the patients in their care. JAF is an important partner in that goal.”
About Dartmouth Cancer Center
Dartmouth Cancer Center combines advanced cancer research at Dartmouth and the Geisel School of Medicine, with award-winning, personalized, and compassionate patient-centered cancer care and clinical trials based at the Norris Cotton Cancer Care Pavilion at Dartmouth Health's Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center. With 14 locations around New Hampshire and Vermont, Dartmouth Cancer Center is one of only 56 National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers. Each year the Dartmouth Cancer Center schedules 74,000 appointments seeing more than 4,500 newly diagnosed patients, and currently offers patients more than 240 active clinical trials. Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2022, Dartmouth Cancer Center remains committed to excellence, outreach and education. We strive to prevent and cure cancer, enhance survivorship and to promote cancer health equity through pioneering interdisciplinary research and collaborations. Learn more at the Dartmouth Cancer Center website.