Author Archives: Krista Zodet, President, HealthWell Foundation

New Real World Health Care Series: Multiple Myeloma Research and Treatment

Krista Zodet, President, HealthWell Foundation

Susan, from Columbia, S.C., is among the millions of Americans struggling to manage a chronic and life-altering disease without the financial means to afford needed medication. Here at HealthWell, we’re honored to be able to help Susan and other patients like her. It always warms our hearts to receive letters like the one she sent:

“I have been a multiple myeloma patient since December 2007 and, unfortunately, there is presently no cure for this cancer. Thankfully, I am responding to treatment, but it is expensive. My oral maintenance medication costs over $11,000 per month and it gets more expensive every year. I am so very thankful for Medicare, but we have a $3,600 deductible that has to be met before insurance pays the claims. That’s a lot of money to come up with each year on a worship pastor’s salary. The charity I was receiving help from can no longer help multiple myeloma patients, but they referred me to HealthWell Foundation and it could not have been easier! The HealthWell representatives I have spoken with have been professional, caring, and efficient. I am thrilled with my experience. Thank you to the wonderful and generous donors who make this possible.” – Susan, Columbia, SC

Susan’s story is not unique. It is however, unfortunate, and one that we hear at the HealthWell Foundation all too often. Cancer is not easy and it’s not inexpensive. That’s why it’s important for us to continue to use this blog to highlight advances in current research, therapies, and what’s on the horizon for treating devastating diseases like Multiple Myeloma.

About Multiple Myeloma

Multiple myeloma is a type of blood cancer that affects the plasma cells found in bone marrow. It is the second most common blood cancer and is considered incurable. It is a treatable disease, however, thanks to recent advances in cancer research which are improving the life expectancy of multiple myeloma patients.

According to the American Cancer Society, more than 30,000 new cases of multiple myeloma are expected to be diagnosed in 2017 and more than 12,000 deaths are expected to occur. The disease is more prevalent among men than among women.

Promising New Therapies

Our new Real World Health Care series will shine a spotlight on the individuals and organizations driving research on new multiple myeloma therapies, including monoclonal antibodies, CAR-T cell therapy, checkpoint inhibitors and other immunotherapies. I share the hopes of these researchers that these new therapies, or others just coming to the drawing board, will allow multiple myeloma to be treated easily and effectively, and with the possibility of a cure.

Supporting Multiple Myeloma Patients

The HealthWell Foundation, sponsor of Real World Health Care, is proud to support the multiple myeloma patient community with copayment and premium assistance. We have helped more than 9,000 multiple myeloma patients afford their treatments since launching our Multiple Myeloma Medicare Access Fund in 2015 — thanks to the generous support of our donors. We invite corporations and individuals to help us by contributing to our Multiple Myeloma Medicare Access Fund, so no one goes without essential medications because they cannot afford them.

New Real World Health Care Series: Melanoma Research and Treatment

“Have you heard from mom and dad recently?” My sister’s question caught me off-guard.  Without realizing it, I hadn’t actually heard from my parents in a while.  She had already asked my brother the same question and he reported not hearing from them lately either.  With no imminent trips back to Michigan from our respective homes in Colorado, Maryland, and North Carolina, all three of us started calling and emailing our parents with some urgency to make sure things were well.

Krista Zodet, President, HealthWell Foundation

My mom’s email came back quickly, bringing us up to speed: “Dad went to the dermatologist about a troublesome spot on his cheek and the doctor did a full body check too.  He found a spot on the back of his thigh and did a biopsy.  Diagnosis: melanoma.  Treatment: surgery.” They removed a patch of skin from my dad’s leg – an area he couldn’t see and for the most part was covered by shorts or pants year-round.  It had been malignant and they got all of it.

That was early 2001, and my dad had just retired (talk about timing).  Because of early detection and annual check-ups since, he has been melanoma-free for 16 years.  We learned a lot about melanoma back then: It is the most dangerous form of skin cancer; and we also understand – thankfully – if it is recognized and treated early, it is almost always curable.

May is Melanoma Awareness Month

Since HealthWell opened its melanoma fund, I have learned even more about this devastating disease: Without early detection, the cancer can advance and spread to other parts of the body, where it becomes hard to treat and can be fatal. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, melanoma kills an estimated 10,130 people in the U.S. annually.

Treatment typically begins by surgically removing the melanoma. Surgical treatments have advanced over the past decade, and most can be done in the doctor’s office or as an outpatient procedure under local anesthesia. In recent years, Mohs Micrographic Surgery has become popular as an alternative to standard surgery for certain melanomas. This procedure spares as much of the normal tissue (known as the margins) as possible while allowing the surgeon to pinpoint the cancer’s location when it is invisible to the naked eye.

When melanoma cells spread to the lymph nodes (stage III) or more distant parts of the body (stage IV), the disease is considered advanced and additional therapy usually follows surgical removal of the original skin tumor. Thanks to an array of treatment options, patients with metastatic melanoma can extend their lives by months or years. A rising number of patients go into long-term remission.

The HealthWell Foundation, sponsor of Real World Health Care, is proud to have supported the melanoma patient community in recent years with copayment and premium assistance. We have helped more than 2,230 melanoma patients afford their treatments since approving our first Melanoma grant in 2011 — thanks to the generous support of our corporate partners. Due to high patient volume, our melanoma fund is temporarily closed until we receive additional funding. We invite corporations and individuals to help us meet this demand by contributing to our Melanoma-Medicare Access Fund, so nobody goes without essential medications because they cannot afford them.

 

 

Categories: General, Melanoma

New Real World Health Care Series to Focus on Pain Management

I remember visiting my grandmother in the hospital in late 1989.  She was in the final stages of pancreatic cancer; her hospitalization was primarily meant to keep her comfortable until her passing.  She had a “button” that added morphine into her IV line.  Although the machine was programmed to deliver only so much morphine within a certain timeframe, she could push that button whenever she needed pain relief.  She never stopped pushing that button.

Krista Zodet, President, HealthWell Foundation

Over twenty-seven years later, the pain associated with and caused by cancer is still a challenge.  In fact, pain seems to accompany many of the diseases we help with at HealthWell and we certainly hear so from our patients.  Even in life outside of HealthWell, I hear from friends and family members stricken with chronic pain related to surgery or an injury and their struggles to manage it productively.

Their stories are powerful and many put into words a pain that I cannot fathom trying to cope with day in and day out.  From minor headaches and injuries, to the effects of major surgeries and chronic disease, pain is an unfortunate fact of life for millions of Americans. It affects more Americans than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined, according to the American Academy of Pain Medicine.

In a 2011 report, the Institute of Medicine estimated that 100 million adult Americans experience chronic pain every year, costing the nation between $560 billion and $635 billion annually. Much of this pain is preventable or could be better managed, according to the committee that wrote the report, which called on health care providers, insurers and the public to have a greater understanding about pain: Although pain is universal, it is experienced uniquely by each person and care often requires a combination of therapies and coping techniques. It is more than a physical symptom and is not always resolved by curing the underlying condition.

We at the HealthWell Foundation agree with the authors of the IOM report in believing that successful treatment, management and prevention of pain requires an integrated approach that responds to all the factors that influence pain.

We also share the growing concern about the role of opioids in treating pain. In its Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain, the CDC notes that opioid pain medication use presents serious risks, including overdose and opioid use disorder. CDC estimate that nearly 2 million Americans age 12 or older either abused or were dependent on prescription opioids in 2014.

Over the next couple of months, we will be focusing on the issue of pain management, including traditional pharmaceutical approaches and non-traditional alternative therapies. We’ll be interviewing top researchers in the field as well as leaders of clinical organizations dedicated to helping patients manage pain.

We invite you to check back to learn more about what’s working in the field of pain control and the challenges researchers and clinicians continue to face, especially in light of the growing issue of opioid addiction. You can also sign up to receive email alerts when new interviews are posted. Just enter your email address under the sign-up message to the right.

Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Focus of New Real World Health Care Series

I am not a clinician, a cancer survivor, or a research expert, however I know the bad hand cancer deals to people like you and me every day.  While I have seen the devastating effects of cancer diagnoses through my work with HealthWell, I am hopeful that the combined efforts of advocates, researchers, and clinicians will continue to move treatment options forward and remission rates up.

Krista Zodet, President, HealthWell Foundation

Krista Zodet, President, HealthWell Foundation

HealthWell has been honored to assist patients receiving treatment for lung cancer since 2006 and this cancer, like many, continues to surprise me with its twists and turns.  According to the American Lung Association, lung cancer is the leading cancer killer in both men and women in the U.S. It has surpassed breast cancer to become the leading cause of cancer deaths in women, and it accounts for approximately 27 percent of all cancer deaths. Almost everyone knows someone who has been affected. That’s why RealWorldHealthCare.org has decided to focus on non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) as our next topic.

Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) accounts for about 80-85 percent of all lung cancers and afflicts about 180,000 people in the United States each year. A number of factors can increase risk of developing NSCLC. Smoking cigarettes or being exposed to secondhand smoke is a primary risk factor for the disease. Exposure to asbestos, radon and certain paints or chemicals may also increase risk.  The scariest stories, though, are those where no clear risk factors exist.

NSCLC has five stages, from stage 0 to stage 4 in order of increasing severity. Outlook and treatment is based on the stage, and because stage 4 cancer is typically not curable, treatment is usually aimed at relieving symptoms. However, targeted therapies have been developed that attack specific aspects of the cancer cell, like growth factors or blood vessels that feed the tumor. Each year, tens of thousands of people are cured of NSCLC in the U.S.

Over the next couple months, we will be focusing on some of these targeted therapies and other therapies designed to treat NSCLC. We’ll be interviewing top researchers in the field as well as leaders of patient advocacy organizations dedicated to helping patients and their families manage the disease.

We invite you to check back to learn more about NSCLC research priorities and challenges. You can also sign up to receive email alerts when new interviews are posted. Just enter your email address under the sign-up message to the right.

If you or someone you love is on Medicare and suffering from NSCLC, HealthWell may be able to help with medication copayments and insurance premiums. Visit our eligibility page to learn more.

Cancer Doesn’t Care. Please Help on #GivingTuesday.

ECRFjumboCancer Doesn’t Care.

It doesn’t care that a patient can’t afford pain medication or the expense of getting to a treatment center. Cancer Doesn’t Care that some patients are forced to drain their child’s college savings fund or choose between an imaging scan and buying groceries.

Cancer Doesn’t Care. Do you?

Today is #GivingTuesday, a global day where families, individuals, and businesses will come together with a common purpose: giving thanks and helping others.  #GivingTuesday is an annual opportunity to celebrate generosity and donate or volunteer for your charity of choice.  Show that you care about cancer patients by giving to HealthWell’s Emergency Cancer Relief Fund (ECRF).

Whether or not you can make a donation, we’d like your help to build awareness for the Emergency Cancer Relief Fund. One of the easiest ways to help is to share our graphics and messaging (below) with your networks.

1. Please join me in support of @HealthWellOrg’s Emergency Cancer Relief Fund. Click here to donate today: http://bit.ly/cancerrelief #CancerRelief

2. Join us on #GivingTuesday to help #cancer patients cover critical out-of-pocket expenses. http://bit.ly/cancerrelief #CancerRelief

3. Provide meaningful comforts to cancer patients by supporting the Emergency Cancer Relief Fund: http://bit.ly/cancerrelief #CancerRelief

With your support, we will be able to open the Emergency Cancer Relief Fund to assist qualified cancer patients so they can better manage their road to recovery…when waiting another day is not an option.

We hope that you will consider helping HealthWell. Together, we can make the Emergency Cancer Relief Fund a reality. Learn how you can make a difference in the life of a cancer patient.  Join us in showing that you care by donating and reaching out to friends and family through your social network.

This Holiday Season, Give Emergency Relief to Cancer Patients

ECRF_Facebook_wig_boost“You have cancer.”

Those devastating words send chills through us all. As the initial shock subsides the reality of unanticipated expense deals a second, unwelcome blow.

We know from assisting more than 70,000 cancer patients with the cost of their treatments just how financially overwhelming and destructive a cancer diagnosis can be. Cancer Doesn’t Care that a patient can’t afford their pain medication or the expense of getting to a treatment center.  Cancer Doesn’t Care that some patients are forced to drain their child’s college savings fund or choose between an imaging scan and buying groceries.

Cancer Doesn’t Care, but we do.

That’s why during this season of giving, we are proud to announce the launch of our “Cancer Doesn’t Care” giving campaign to raise the remaining funds needed to launch the Emergency Cancer Relief Fund (ECRF). The ECRF will allow us to provide immediate grants to qualified cancer patients to assist them with meaningful comforts, such as anti-nausea medicine, travel to and from an appointment, wigs and other hidden expenses.  Giving is as easy as clicking here.

The out-of-pocket critical costs of cancer can be financially devastating. According to a Duke University Medical Center and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute study, out-of-pocket, cancer-related costs averaged $712 a month. Further, the study found that about 30 percent of respondents said their expenses were a “significant burden” and 11 percent called those expenses a “catastrophic problem.”

The “Cancer Doesn’t Care” campaign asks individuals, celebrities, and corporations for financial and social media support. We’ve created powerful social media graphics and messaging that can be shared to highlight the many ways that cancer affects patients financially.

Cancer patients must pay for so much more than treatment, and every little bit makes a difference. Please help make the holidays a little brighter by donating, and reach out to friends and family through your own social media networks. Share the messages we’ve prepared or create your own.  Even a small donation can make a difference.

Please help ease the burden for someone who has received these three devastating words by asking your social networks to give. On behalf of HealthWell and the thousands of cancer patients we serve, I thank you for caring.

***

The HealthWell Foundation is an independent non-profit that provides financial assistance to underinsured Americans to help them afford life-changing medical treatments (and sponsor of this blog).

 

Be a HealthWell Hero for Patients This Holiday Season

“HealthWell literally saved my life.”

If we told you that the perfect holiday gift could help save a life, you probably wouldn’t believe us. Think again. You’ll make a sick person’s wish come true when you give the gift of health to patients in urgent need of financial assistance by donating to the HealthWell Foundation.

100% of contributions to HealthWell will go directly to help patients access critical, often life-saving services. Your generous gift — whether it’s $10, $25, $50 or more — could make all the difference for people who are struggling to get better. Just ask Sharon, from Detroit, MI.

Feeling drained and not knowing where to turn, Sharon wasn’t sure how she was going to afford the high cost of her lupus medications. Then she discovered HealthWell, which gave her the financial help she desperately needed, just in time. Now Sharon can continue working and her family no longer has to pinch pennies to help her pay for treatments:

“What people sometimes fail to realize is that people with chronic conditions are dependent on prescribed therapies,” Sharon said. “The absence of these treatments means that we can potentially miss out on an enhanced quality of life. That’s a terrible notion to fathom because who doesn’t want to live their best life possible?”

We couldn’t agree more. At HealthWell, we believe no patient – adult or child – should ever go without the treatments they need because they can’t afford it.

When you donate to us for the holidays, you’ll be a hero for patients like Brad from Myrtle Beach, NC.

“Thanks to grants from HealthWell, I can now get the medication I need to keep my disease at bay!”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Financial assistance from HealthWell enables Brad to get the medication he needs to manage Rheumatoid Arthritis.

The generosity of supporters made it possible for him to afford the care that empowers him to control his severe/aggressive Rheumatoid Arthritis. Without a grant from HealthWell, he says he would live “a life of degrading joints, pain and disfigurement.”

Amy from Whitesburg, GA, was diagnosed in May 2010 with stage IV non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a blood cancer. Because supporters like you were there for her, she’s now living to celebrate her children’s birthdays and watch them grow up.would live “a life of degrading joints, pain and disfigurement.”

“After each of my eight chemo treatments, I received a treatment to boost my white blood cell count,” she said. “Your donation helped pay for those very expensive treatments, and they helped! I NEVER got sick during my treatment phase. I have now been in remission for 14 months!”

Amy, Brad, and Sharon are not alone. Our work is not done.

Folks all over the country – mothers, fathers, children, friends, neighbors and loved ones – are getting sick and watching the bills pile up, with no end in sight. The need is great and patients are counting on you to step up so we can continue to be a lifeline in these tough financial times.

Join us in saying Happy Holidays to patients and families by giving them some relief so they can start the New Year off right.

Categories: Cost-Savings

Make Life a Little Easier for Sick Children This #GivingTuesday

Cyndi from Midland, TX didn’t know how she was going to pay for the asthma medication her son Ethan desperately needed. Feeling like nothing was going right and not knowing where to turn, she was on the verge of losing hope. Then something dramatic happened that would change everything. Cyndi discovered the HealthWell Foundation:

Cyndi didn't know how she was going to pay for her son Ethan's (right) asthma medication until she found the HealthWell Foundation.

Cyndi didn’t know how she was going to afford asthma medication for her son Ethan (right) until she applied to the HealthWell Foundation for financial assistance.

Our son was born very sick. He spent 5 weeks in the NICU, 2 of which were on a ventilator. When we finally brought him home, we knew I had to stay home with him. If we put him in daycare, we knew he would get sick and that would be hard on his lungs. With me not working, it put a huge cloud over our finances. We quickly found out that his asthma medication was not cheap, even with insurance. I also found out that there isn’t a lot of help for people who have insurance and a decent job. I spent hours and hours on the Internet and the phone trying to find some help. One day I found HealthWell. We applied thinking we would be denied. The day I got the acceptance letter in the mail, I sat on the kitchen floor and cried. I felt a sense of relief. Finally, something was going right. We cannot be more grateful for all the help HealthWell has given us. 

When you give to HealthWell’s Pediatric Assistance Fund for #GivingTuesday, you will make a difference for children who have been diagnosed with a chronic or life-altering condition, just in time for the holidays. Every penny of your donation will help us provide financial assistance to patients so they can afford the rising cost of care:

  • To date, HealthWell has awarded more than 274,000 grants to insured adults and children across all of our funds to help them afford treatments.
  • In just two months, we awarded grants of up to $5,000 to more than 20 families.

No family should ever have to wonder whether they can afford to save their child’s life. By giving to the Pediatric Assistance Fund, you will help us remain a lifeline for families so they can afford life-saving treatment for their sick children.

Your gift will help ensure that families with children who have chronic conditions – including leukemia, cystic fibrosis, or juvenile diabetes – are not forced to choose between paying the bills and affording quality care. Here’s a breakdown of how donations, large and small, will have a tangible impact:

  • $10 covers the cost of diabetes test strips for Michael for one month.
  • $45 supports Yessenia’s pituitary hormone treatment for 1 week.
  • $75 covers Quinnlian’s lesion treatment for immunosuppressive disease for one month.

Start the holidays off right by donating to HealthWell for #GivingTuesday and make life a little easier for more families like Ethan’s. Your gift will make the season brighter for children and families struggling to afford the medications or treatments they need.

Categories: Cost-Savings

Give Patients the Gift of Hope and Health by Supporting HealthWell for #GivingTuesday

We are proud to announce that the HealthWell Foundation – an independent 501(c)(3) charity that provides financial assistance to insured patients living with chronic and life-altering illnesses – is joining the #GivingTuesday campaign, which launches today. 100 percent of your donation to HealthWell goes directly to grants and services that will benefit patients in need across the country. This week we are sharing some powerful real-world examples of how your gift to HealthWell will help transform lives.

Lynn Harcharik

Lynn, who received financial assistance from HealthWell for cancer treatments.

As one of our country’s most trusted independent charities, we believe that no patient, including those living with cancer, should go without health care because they can’t afford it. By donating to HealthWell for #GivingTuesday, you’ll join us in making that commitment a reality that will change lives for the better, one patient at a time – just like Lynn.

It was ovarian cancer spreading to the colon. My husband called many places, no cancer society would help! One society asked what type of cancer it was, and replied: there are no funds for ovarian cancer – we cannot help. Another organization had already used their funds. It was very discouraging, but my oncologist’s secretary told us about the HealthWell Foundation. After calling and talking to your group, the answer was YES, you would help. (Thanks!) In October of 2008, reversal surgery was done with the ileostomy. And yes, the cancer came back, or maybe was not completely gone from before, but-more chemo! Thank you for being there in my time of need. My prayers are with your group and your work. Thanks!

– Lynn (Streator, IL)

We want to make a difference for even more patients like Lynn so they can access critical medical treatments and get better. But that can only happen with your support.

That’s why, for this year’s #GivingTuesday, we’re urging Real World Health Care (RWHC) Blog readers to donate to the HealthWell Foundation’s Emergency Cancer Relief Fund (ECRF). Your generous holiday gift will help ensure that patients living with cancer are not forced to choose between paying the rent or buying food and affording life-saving care.

So what, specifically, will your tax-deductible #GivingTuesday donation do? Giving to ECRF will bring us closer to meeting our $100,000 goal by the end of the year so the fund can open in January. We are almost halfway there with more than $46,000 raised so far. Every dollar counts, and with just a little more help, we will hit our goal so that more cancer patients can start 2014 off right.

To help more families and patients afford the urgent medical treatments they desperately need, we need you to support #GivingTuesday starting today. Please contribute as generously as you possibly can.

Thank you for giving the gift of health this holiday season.

Categories: Cost-Savings

Help A Sick Child this Holiday Season

No family should ever have to wonder whether they can afford to save their child’s life, but that very question haunts families all over the country, every day. Through the HealthWell Pediatric Assistance Fund,® however, we are working to change that — because no adult or child should go without health care because they can’t afford it.

In just two months, the HealthWell Foundation awarded  grants of up to $5,000 to more than 20 families. These grants help children like Anna, who was born with a rare disorder affecting the brain known as Sturge-Weber Syndrome. A grant from Pediatric Assistance Fund eased the financial burden that Anna’s family faced after the radical surgery she underwent to help stop her seizures and stroke-like episodes. Now instead of having to choose between paying the bills and affording life-saving treatment, Anna’s family can focus on her recovery and watching her grow up.

Photo (left): Earlier this year, Anna had surgery for a rare brain disorder. Photo (right): Now she is back home, seizure free -- healing and growing.

Photo (left): Earlier this year, Anna had surgery for a rare brain disorder.
Photo (right): Now she is back home, seizure free — healing and growing.

We want to empower even more families just like Anna’s, so they can afford the treatments their children desperately need. That’s why, during this season of giving, we’re urging you to donate to the Pediatric Assistance Fund so we can help the next family, just in time for the holidays. 100 percent of your tax-deductible gift will go directly to patient grants and services to help children start or continue critical medical treatments.

In the following letter, Anna’s mom Mary from Delta, Pennsylvania, shares the challenges of affording care for their little girl and the big difference that HealthWell’s Pediatric Assistance Fund grant made in their lives:

Our daughter, Anna was born with a birthmark on her face and scalp. The doctors suspected there was more to the story. A CT scan of her head confirmed the diagnosis of Sturge-Weber Syndrome, a rare disorder affecting the brain. We spent the next few weeks as new parents trying to understand our beautiful little girl and the rare disease she had. When she was just 3 weeks old, she had her first set of seizures. It was terrifying to see her little body so out of control. She was admitted to the hospital and started on medication. The doctors were able to control the seizures, but never for too long.

Since that first seizure many years ago, we have celebrated many days without seizures and suffered through the days when they eventually returned. We changed medications, avoided activity that might over fatigue her, struggled through specialized diets and prayed for a cure. In January, Anna was scheduled to undergo a radical surgery to remove the diseased half of her brain. We knew this could offer her a future without seizures, but we also knew the incredible cost we faced.

With the help of the HealthWell Foundation, Anna had her surgery. She is back home, seizure free – healing and growing. Our family has been able to focus our attention on Anna’s recovery knowing the financial burden has been reduced.

We are so grateful for the financial support the HealthWell Foundation has offered to us. With their help, we are able to celebrate the wonderful little girl God has blessed us with and we look forward to her bright future.

Give to the Pediatric Assistance Fund today so we can make life a little easier for more families with children facing chronic or life-altering conditions.

Categories: Cost-Savings