After Spencer graduated from college in 2015, a friend noticed that he had very swollen lymph nodes on his neck.
As he sought medical advice, many healthcare professionals attributed his symptoms to being a side effect of a gender-affirming procedure he had a few months earlier (Spencer is a transgender man). It took several months and numerous appointments before he was diagnosed with stage three Hodgkin lymphoma.
When facing a cancer diagnosis, patients and their families suddenly are thrown into navigating the healthcare system – from making serious medical decisions to visiting multiple healthcare professionals. For many LGBTQI+ people, the critical questions about treatment options and recovery are followed immediately by concerns about social stigma, according to the National LGBT Cancer Network.
For Spencer, he was approached with questions that assumed a relationship between his cancer history and gender identity. Questions such as “Was this caused by your transition?” or “You’re an unusual case, huh?”
“This experience has driven my commitment to raise awareness and build the knowledge necessary for providers to embrace us as patients, honor our identities and protect our livelihood,” says Spencer.
Spencer went through 12 infusions of chemotherapy over six months followed by three months of recovery and is in remission today.
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) and Subaru of America Inc., two organizations committed to impacting positively the communities where they live and work, have partnered for the fifth consecutive year to send hope, love and warmth to patients fighting cancer through the “Subaru Loves to Care Program.” Since 2016, this powerful partnership joins more than 540 Subaru retailers nationwide every June to donate and deliver more than 148,000 blankets and 21,500 arts & crafts kits, to nearly 150,000 patients in more than 780 hospitals across the country.
The impact of COVID-19 has created more hardships for cancer patients, and Subaru and LLS are rising to the occasion. In April, Subaru graciously donated $750,000 to help launch LLS’s COVID-19 Patient Financial Aid Program, an emergency fund LLS established, along with other LLS partners, to provide blood cancer patients with a $250 stipend to assist with non-medical expenses, such as housing, utilities and food. The program has provided nearly $4.7 million in assistance to more than 19,091 patients.
Beginning in July, LLS and Subaru will mail blankets and personalized letters directly to the homes of every patient who received support through the COVID-19 Patient Financial Aid Program, thus continuing the tradition of bringing warmth and comfort to patients and their families during these challenging times.
“Like many nonprofit organizations, LLS is not immune to the impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Louis J. DeGennaro, LLS President and CEO. “But despite these challenges, we remain laser-focused on advancing cutting-edge research and helping blood cancer patients and their families. Our appreciation for Subaru’s unwavering dedication and support cannot be overstated. Together, we are truly making an impact on the lives of cancer patients and their families, at a time when they need us more than ever.”
In addition to Subaru Loves to Care, Subaru created its own fundraising team to support LLS’s latest virtual fundraising innovation, Big Virtual Climb, on June 13, joining thousands of LLS supporters as they climbed virtually the Salesforce Tower in San Francisco, raising funds to support LLS’s mission.
Subaru staff participating in Big Virtual Climb to raise funds for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
All cancer patients, working to ensure they have access to quality affordable care.
Racial justice and equality for Black people.
Diversity and inclusion among our staff and volunteers.
We stand against hate, prejudice and injustice.
Along with you, we watched in horror the death of George Floyd and we feel outrage at the injustice it represents. As we witness nightly disturbing images of violence and unrest in our cities, we feel a range of intense emotions – anger, fear, confusion and sadness.
We are living through a very challenging time, and we can only hope it becomes a turning point for our country, one that leads to healing and greater justice, equality and opportunity for Black people. We believe that Black lives matter.
But hope is not a plan.
We all have our part to play as citizens to help our communities and our country heal and do better.
What we do matters. What we do can set an example.
We must continue to treat each other with kindness and respect.
We must continue our efforts to hire a more diverse staff and recruit a more diverse community of volunteers.
We must ensure that we provide equal benefits and opportunities across our entire organization.
But we can do more.
LLS has more than 70 years of impact for patients and families. Our shared sense of purpose among our staff and the cancer community at large, allows us to provide unique and meaningful support to patients with a blood cancer – throughout their diagnosis, treatment and survivorship.
Communities of color, particularly African Americans and Latinx, have been hit hard and disproportionately by the COVID-19 pandemic, including challenges accessing healthcare and, now, due to the economic impact of the crisis, many face financial hardships.
Blood cancer patients in these communities need us now, more than ever.
We must continue to fight for blood cancer patients across the country, from all walks of life and all means. Despite the economic impact of the crisis on LLS, we must forge ahead for patients.
We are proud of our efforts to address the health disparities that impact people of color and other underprivileged populations. We serve them through our Patient Assistance Programs – like Urgent Need, Co-Pay Assistance, and Myeloma Link Program, a program that directly connects African American communities to free information and support.
Our Office of Public Policy in Washington, DC, works everyday with federal and state legislatures to address barriers posed by the cost of cancer care for patients.
Our 56 chapters across the country play a critical role in our outreach to underserved groups. And we are planning a health services research initiative - “Equity in Access” - to identify policies, strategies and interventions that have potential to increase access to healthcare.
But we can do more and we will.
We are looking inward, too. We plan to make this watershed moment an opportunity to be better as an organization. We will work to increase diversity among our staff and volunteers. We want to be the kind of organization that welcomes difficult conversations and fosters a culture where everyone can be heard.
Our varied backgrounds and experiences are our greatest source of strength, creativity and empathy. We don’t have all the answers today, but we are committed to working together as a leading patient advocacy organization, to stand up for our patients, and all people of color and underserved citizens.