BOONE — A cancer diagnosis is life changing. Apart from the physical toll, cancer patients can feel terrified, anxious, and depressed. If that wasn’t enough, cancer can be a monumental financial burden for anyone. Often cancer patients and even their caretakers need to miss work for treatments. And the bills don’t stop for cancer. Regular monthly bills are compounded by new expenses like prescriptions and gas to and from the frequent appointments.
As terrible as all of this is, many patients gain a renewed perspective, realign their priorities, learn just how strong they are, and find they have a generous support system surrounding them.
For one local woman, who experienced a lot of that, helping cancer patients through the Cancer Patient Emergency Fund is how she is celebrating her 10th year of being free of breast cancer.
Shortly after the youngest of her three daughters was born, Ginger Powell was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. At the time she was a stay-at-home mom and was only in her early 30s.
With her husband Matt by her side, she underwent radiation and chemotherapy for breast cancer in 2011 and 2012 at Seby B. Jones Regional Cancer Center. For her, the Cancer Patient Emergency Fund provided gas cards and she found that to be a memorable blessing during a difficult time.
As the 10-year anniversary of being cancer-free approached she started dreaming and planning for a big celebration. She decided early on she wanted to somehow raise money for breast cancer patients. Ginger gathered a committee of friends, who she knew could help her make this happen.
“Cancer gives you a whole new perspective and a new sense of gratitude,” she says. “This has been a dream of mine. Not only can we celebrate but we can do it in a way where I can give back as well.”
However, in the middle of making plans last May, Ginger was presented with another challenge.
Though the recommended age for the first screening colonoscopy is 45-50, some concerning symptoms and a family history led her to ask her primary care provider for a referral to have a screening colonoscopy. From that, she was diagnosed with colon cancer. Fortunately, it was detected early, and Dr. Paul Dagher and Dr. Tim Edmisten from Watauga Surgical Group were able to remove it all through surgery without undergoing any additional treatments.
That didn’t slow down Ginger and her friends. She remembers thinking, “I’m not going to let cancer take one more thing from me.” They simply continued planning.
“I first wanted to give back to breast cancer patients, but after my colon cancer diagnosis, I wanted to expand our giving reach to anyone fighting cancer,” she says. “I think cancer has touched a lot of people in a lot of ways.”
During Hope for the High Country there will be live music, a silent auction and a cash bar.
“This celebration is open to anyone, and is a celebration of survivorship,” she says. And she especially wants to encourage anyone who has experienced cancer to attend, “Wear your dancing shoes, bring your checkbooks and expect a good time with wonderful people for an important cause.”
Tickets to Hope for the High Country may be purchased online at apprhs.org/hopehc. For those who are unable to attend, but would still like to make a donation they may do so through the same link.
The Cancer Patient Emergency Fund through the Appalachian Regional Healthcare Foundation, provides financial assistance to Seby B. Jones Regional Cancer Center patients for items such as gasoline for transportation to treatments, utility bills, medications and grocery expenses.
Ginger’s celebration, Hope for the High Country, will take place on Sunday, Sept. 25, from 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. at Beacon Butcher Bar. Admission to the celebration is $75 per person and all proceeds will benefit the Cancer Patient Emergency Fund through Appalachian Regional Healthcare Foundation.