Free Mammograms for SWFL’s Uninsured and Underserved | Partners for Breast Cancer Care
Breast Cancer Awareness
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and a perfect time to shine a spotlight on a local organization that helps low income and uninsured women and men pay for mammograms, diagnostic testing, and breast cancer treatments.
Partners for Breast Cancer Care
“Partners for Breast Cancer Care (PfBCC) is the best-kept secret in Lee County,” says executive director Janet Darnell. But she wants the secret out of the bag, especially since the non-profit is expanding its footprint to Hendry, Glades, Collier, and Charlotte Counties where volunteers and healthcare professionals are needed to join the life-saving organization.
The initiative began in 1991 with a grant to study who in Lee was not getting mammogram screenings and why not. Volunteers literally went door-to-door in low-income, at-risk neighborhoods, and found lack of finances was a top culprit.
The grant also provided money for some of these women to get mammograms, but if a problem was found, there was no funding for more testing or treatment; they were left hanging.
That planted a seed for what is today, Partners for Breast Cancer Care. Founders got hospitals, surgeons, doctors, and others to provide their services for underserved men and women at negotiated rates and at no cost to the patient. Janet says, “Those fees have remained the same for 28 years. We have more than 100 partners in health.”
Grants, Donations, and Fundraising
Money to pay those negotiated fees comes from grants, donations, and fundraising. More is needed.
Janet is not only the executive director of PfBCC, she is also a former client. A single mom with no insurance, working long hours to keep her cleaning business going, Janet was led to get a mammogram after seeing a television program on breast cancer.
She scraped together just enough money to get the screening only to find out she needed more testing and she couldn’t afford it. PfBCC paid for her needle biopsy. She had cancer.
PfBCC stepped in again to fund her lumpectomy and radiation, essentially saving her life. Janet said, “I knew I had to give back, so I started volunteering.” That was nearly 20 years ago. She has been executive director for the last 12.
“It breaks my heart that there are people who don’t know about us and don’t get treatment because they don’t’ know where to turn,” she says.
Every Three Minutes
According to Breastcancer.org, every three minutes a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer and close to 200,000 new cases are diagnosed each year.
Canady Benjamin was one of those women. She found a lump in her breast, but had just started a new job and didn’t have insurance. She says, “I kept praying that God would take it away. I didn’t want to deal with it.”
After seeing a flier in her break room about Partners for Breast Cancer Care, Canady picked one up and called for help. She was sent to a doctor, got a mammogram, and then a biopsy at no cost to her.
Then she got the call. “The doctor said, ‘I really don’t want to do this over the phone, but you have cancer. It’s progressive and I don’t want to waste time.’”
Her cancer was stage two but she also had the nefarious BRCA gene. By the time she made it to surgery, the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes.
Now cancer-free, Canady says, “I don’t know what I would’ve done without PfBCC. I would’ve kept praying, but by the time I got insurance, who knows how big it would’ve been.”
Breast cancer doesn’t just affect women. Men get it too and PfBCC has seen a few come through their doors. It also does not discriminate between young and old.
Having been there herself, helping those without the means to pay for breast cancer screenings and treatments is Janet’s passion. “I’ve made a promise to keep these doors open. We are helping people. We are saving lives.”
PfBCC has a number of fundraising events this month. For more information on them, becoming a volunteer, and the criteria for receiving help from PfBCC, check out the website www.pfbcc.org.
9470 Healthpark Circle Ft. Myers, FL 33908