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Breast Cancer Patients at St. Joseph Cancer Center Benefit From Community Partnership

While the pandemic has affected the lives of most people, breast cancer patients face the added concern of being at higher risk for serious complications from COVID-19.

At St. Joseph Cancer Center, Breast Care Patient Navigator Lisa Spencer has noticed her patients feel especially isolated, and many are in need of additional support.

“We have patients out of work or with reduced hours, so financial resources for many have been limited,” Spencer said. “The referral sources that normally help out are also facing a financial crunch, meaning not much money is available per patient. Our patients have felt very isolated during this time, so I’ve spent many hours on the phone to help them out.”

Spencer also serves as president of the board of directors for Breast Cancer Support Services of Berks (BCSS), a Reading-based nonprofit that has partnered with St. Joseph to help breast cancer patients since it got its start 26 years ago. In 2019, the organization supported more than 1,000 women, men and families in the community.

“They provide hope, information and emotional support to anyone in Berks County with breast cancer, regardless of where they go for treatment,” Spencer explained. “In addition to financial aid, they have a counseling assistance fund and support groups for newly diagnosed patients. Their volunteers also assemble and give every patient a comfort bag at the time of diagnosis. The bag, which includes a book, nightshirt, gift card and pillows, is a great way to introduce patients to their services.”

In recent years, BCSS’ main source of funding has been an annual fashion show. But like organizations everywhere, it was forced to cancel the fundraiser due to the pandemic. As a result, their staff members’ ability to provide patient assistance and resources is limited.

“It has been a tough year, and nothing I had hoped for has happened,” Spencer said. “The pandemic has been terribly hard for any nonprofit that relies on fundraising. The Big Pink Auction is our solution.”

The online auction, which began Oct. 5 and runs through Sunday, Nov. 30, features jewelry, home décor and sports items, with more items added weekly. Participants can also donate money to fund BCSS’ many support services.

“BCSS is hoping to recoup much of the lost funding with this new fundraiser,” Spencer added. “But no matter what level of success they achieve, they will do whatever they can to support the patients.”

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