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Receiving a diagnosis of cancer seems like a bad dream for many people. But for Beverly Gates of Pontotoc, having breast cancer became a blessing.
Gates, 27, found a lump in her breast in late 2008. She went to her doctor, who told her the best option in her case was a total mastectomy. In December she began treatments at the North Mississippi Medical Center Cancer Center.
“I was scared to death, and having my whole breast removed at age 27 was almost devastating,” Gates said. “But then I came to the Cancer Center and met Cindy Edwards, and knew that God had let cancer happen to me for a reason.”
Edwards, the social worker at the NMMC Cancer Center, has helped Gates through many life challenges.
Gates, who is unable to work because she suffers from uncontrollable seizures from injuries in a car accident several years ago, said, “I have two small children to take care of and we live with my Dad. I needed to be on disability and tried for five years and couldn’t do it. Then Cindy came along and helped me.” Gates referred to receiving approval for disability as, “a huge blessing in itself – the money isn’t much, but it at least means I can contribute a little and my Dad isn’t the only one providing for all four of us.”
Then, Gates hit another roadblock. Her family’s electricity was turned off after their unpaid electricity bills piled up to more than $400.
When Edwards found this out, she immediately went to work to get the family’s lights turned back on. “The NMMC Cancer Center Patient Assistance Fund is there specifically for patients like Beverly,” Edwards said. “Cancer treatment is expensive, and not everyone can afford it. Or, if they manage to pay for their treatments, they are forced to go without money for their bills, medication and transportation. We’d never want a patient to be forced to choose between fighting their cancer or feeding their children.”
The fund has also helped Gates in other times of need – when she needed to buy food for her children and when she needed gas in the car to get to her treatment.
The NMMC Cancer Center Patient Assistance Fund is administered by the Health Care Foundation of North Mississippi. This fund assists cancer patients with anti-nausea and pain medicine, transportation to and from cancer treatment, and nutritional supplements. Once a patient’s application is approved, he or she is added to the list of those qualified to receive assistance. The fund assists an average of 140 patients each month for an annual cost of $220,000.
“Cindy and everyone at the Cancer Center are my angels,” Gates said. “I was so close to giving up – but they can manage to make you laugh and smile on even your worst days. I know they have so many patients, but when they’re with me, I feel like the only person that matters to them. It’s so obvious that they love what they do and care about all their patients so much.”