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Domino Effect: The Power of Small Acts of Kindness in the Fight Against Cancer

Forest Trees

With so much important work being done in the fight against cancer, it can be hard to know where you can make a difference. Where will your time, attention, and money make a real, noticeable impact for people facing the fight of their lives? 


Recently, we had the privilege of speaking with Terri Stong and Greg Bankoski, social workers at the Duke Cancer Institute. We wanted to learn more about their work on the front lines of cancer treatment and to find out what we can all do to help. 


In Part One of our interview, Terri and Greg explained how small moments of stress-relief can have a big impact on a patient’s treatment and, ultimately, their success. Here in Part Two, we’ll learn more about how foundations like CCF and the generosity of donors like you play a vital part in their heroic work.


Here’s Terri and Greg.


Community Caring Foundation: How do foundations like CCF play a part in your day-to-day work at Duke Cancer Institute?


Terri Stong: So. Earlier today Greg couldn’t get ahold of me because I was deep down the rabbit hole finding help for a patient who needed a compression sleeve. She’s not in active treatment, which makes it tricky. And she can’t afford the $400 for a sleeve. So there I was, searching around, trying to find resources for her through places like CCF. A lot of people don’t know who to call, they don’t know what’s available. It’s our job to be that go-to person every single day.


Greg Bankoski: We generally see between ten and fifteen patients a day. Ultimately, our job is to connect all of them with the resources they need to be successful with their treatment. That’s why organizations like Caring Community Foundation are so essential to what we do. Without them, folks simply wouldn’t get the kind of help and treatment they need.


TS: And it’s not always medical needs. Say somebody needs to come here for radiation therapy. They need to be here every single day for two weeks. But they’re on disability. They only get $800 a month. It's $45 a day to stay at the Caring House, so there’s no way they can afford that. Our job is to find a way to make it happen for them ⎯ to make sure their treatment doesn’t suffer just because they happen to have less money than somebody else. And often it’s by finding resources through organizations like Caring Community Foundation. 

CCF: Can you talk about what it’s like working with CCF to serve your clients?  


TS: I absolutely could not do my job as well as I do without Caring Community Foundation. They’re the ace in my pocket. I’ll give you an example. I recently had a guy who needed a recliner. He could not get in and out of his bed. I told his wife, “Find a chair under $500. I know where to submit it.” With the help of CCF, we got this guy a recliner, and it immediately improved his quality of life big time. Before, he literally could not get out of his bed. 


GB: What's unique about the Caring Community Foundation is how efficient you guys are. There can be a lot of gatekeeping with some organizations. And I understand why. They have to be careful. But with CCF there’s a trust level they build with the people they work with. We can explain what a patient needs with just a few sentences, and you all help us get it. It makes our job so much easier, which means we’re able to help more people.


TS: There’s really a passion and dedication with CCF. It comes across.

CCF: Where will a donation make the biggest impact in the fight against cancer? Where do you tell people to give?


TS: I literally had a woman ask me this same question the other day. Where would a donation make the biggest difference? I’ll tell you what I told her. I think there’s enough money going to research right now. Don’t get me wrong: Research is important. It’s very important. But a lot of these massive Fortune 500 companies are already giving huge amounts to it. Where a normal, everyday donor can give that will have the biggest impact is to funds like CCF.


GB: You hear about all this money being donated to research. And it’s so important. It really is. But it’s also very far removed from these moments when a patient really just needs some help to get through. There is a lot of talk these days about solving income inequality, especially in medicine, and I think the quickest way to solve it is by giving to places like CCF. More and more I see my role as a re-distributor of wealth. I think that’s what social workers are called upon to do, and I’m happy to do it. It makes a real difference.

TS: Anyone who gives money to CCF is 100% going to change the trajectory of someone’s cancer treatment. And not just one person’s treatment, but several people’s treatment. It will change their lives. And those people will go on to change other people’s lives. It becomes this domino effect. It pays dividends over time to many, many, many people in The Triangle. One donor can do that. It’s big, and it’s profound, and it makes all the difference in the world.

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