In late 2015, Deandre received her breast cancer diagnosis. She was connected to Anuj Agarwala, MD, an MD Anderson Cancer Network® certified physician practicing medical oncology at Community Health Network, who explained the plan for her treatment.
“I was nervous and not sure what to expect,” she said. “As a woman of faith, I knew my mindset would be the biggest part of getting better. So, I put on my boots and got to work focused on beating this.”
She underwent genetic testing and a double mastectomy under the care of MD Anderson Cancer Network certified physician Erin Zusan, MD, specializing in breast surgical oncology. Then, Deandre received radiation treatment over the course of two months.
A follow-up appointment showed that the cancer had spread to a lymph node. Deandre would require additional surgery, radiation and also chemotherapy.
As a property manager, Deandre needed to work in order to get paid. Treatment was intensive and tiring and prevented her from working as much as she would have liked. Most of her savings had been depleted at this point in time, so her parents moved in with her to help care for her and her two children still living at home.
Just before Thanksgiving, Deandre was offered financial assistance through Community’s Oncology Patient Assistance Fund. The fund provides vouchers to cancer patients facing financial challenges so that they can access basic needs like healthy food, life-saving medicine and gas to get to and from treatment.
“At Community, they don’t want you to have stress,” she said. “This voucher provided instant relief for me and helped me buy food to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family.”
Over the course of her treatment, Deandre received another voucher that helped her buy groceries. While she describes the medical care she received at Community as “the best,” she also was touched by the personal and emotional support she received from the oncology care teams. For example, on her birthday the nurses helped her celebrate, offering her cards and small tokens of affection that let her know they cared.
“At Community, it’s just extra,” she said. “From the front desk to housekeeping and all of the caregivers, they make you feel special and like family.”
It’s this care that inspired Deandre to give back by sharing her story in the hopes of raising awareness about the financial assistance made possible at Community.
“I understand what it’s like to need help but not know where to go,” she said. “When I realized how greatly my cancer affected so many people, I knew I wanted to give back. I was helped so much. It would be selfish if I wasn’t a support to someone else.”
As for The Giving Gig 2018? Deandre, who is now cancer-free, can’t wait for the big event and to see firsthand the more than 1,000 donors who gather in support of the Oncology Patient Assistance Fund.
“It’s priceless and the most selfless act to be able to help people that you don’t even know,” she said.