KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Breast cancer is a life-changing diagnosis and for many patients, the cost to save their lives puts them into extreme debt.
Some families are forced to decide whether to pay for treatments or keep their lights on at home, but a Tennessee nonprofit wants to change that.
"Breast cancer is just insanely expensive and medical bills are one of the leading causes for bankruptcy," Maggie Hallgren, the director of fund development for TBCC said. "So we are trying very hard to combat that."
It's a war the Tennessee Breast Cancer Coalition will never stop fighting: the blindside of breast cancer, coupled with an extreme financial burden.
"It's not fair that someone goes bankrupt because of a cancer diagnosis," Hallgren said.
The Nashville-based nonprofit focuses on breast cancer fighters' finances. It was founded in 1995 to write grants for Vanderbilt and Susan G. Komen.
It wasn't very long before the organization chose to pivot and focus on individual finances.
"Since 2002, we have helped 1525 patients and it's not just the patients, it's the patients and their families," Hallgren said.
There are three requirements to qualify for help from TBCC. Patients must have lived in Tennessee for at least a year, should be U.S. citizens and at the 200-percent poverty level.
The nonprofit can help pay medical bills, insurance premiums, rent and mortgages.
"We're trying to keep these people in their homes and keep them with their kids while they're going through chemotherapy and cancer treatment," Halldren said.
But TBCC can't help if breast cancer fighters don't speak up.
"If you are in the middle of a cancer diagnosis, or you are struggling paying your bills, tell your doctor, tell your social worker, tell your nurse navigator," Halldren said.
Doctors, social workers and nurse navigators have a direct line to TBCC and can alert the nonprofit if they know patients need help.
You can also call TBCC at 615-377-8777 if you need help and the staff can send an application.
Fundraising fuels the nonprofit. That's why it's hosting a golf tournament at Gettysvue Country Club in Knoxville on August 30.
"All of the money raised from this Knoxville golf tournament is going to stay in that area, it's going to stay in Knox County, it's going to help those patients that need it that are in your community," Halldren said.
Registration is $175 for one person and $700 for a team.