WEST DES MOINES, Iowa –Treatment doesn't just take a toll on families physically and mentally. Cancer also has a big financial cost and an organization wants to help.
It's the start of sixth grade and Grace Crowell is hoping for a normal year. “It`s nice. I feel normal again. Build up my strength and can do other things I wasn`t able to do before,” she said.
In May, she finished treatment for leukemia. “It was hard and scary," she said.
She went through 808 days of clinic visits, chemo infusions, spinal taps and more. It all added up to a physical and financial strain. “Since March 1st, 2017 to today, her medical expenses alone have been $596,000," said Mom Jeanet Crowell. Insurance covered a big chunk, but the family paid more than $15,000. That doesn’t include time missed from work and travel expenses.
“The first year you kind of suck it up. Ok, we`ve got $5,000, but then by the time the second year rolls around, and the third year rolls around, you don`t have that cushion. Not to mention we`re just trying to make it through. Just trying to survive,” said Jeanet.
Then one day, the Crowell family found a surprise in the mail. “I`m like what is this? Open it up, and it`s a nice little envelope with a note from the organization and Mitch, his handwriting and just basically acknowledging, we see you, we hear you.,” Jeanet said.
The Pinky Swear Foundation, which started 16 years ago, sent the family the orange envelope full of gift cards. It also had Mitch's story of how the boy dying of cancer gave envelopes full of cash one Christmas to families in the hospital. It was from his savings. He made his dad pinky swear he'd continue his mission.
Jeanet said, “Just to have somebody acknowledge we get what you`re going through. This isn`t anything anybody signs up for. Nobody wants to be a part of this club, but here we are, just trying to make the best of it.”
The Pinky Swear Foundation helped 88 Iowa families in 2018. And fifty so far this year. Iowa Area Director Mary Core said, “Families plan for college and they plan for retirement, weddings, but they don`t plan to get the devastating news their child has cancer.”
The average gift is $900, and the organization helps families more than once. “They also helped with a mortgage payment one month. Just this spring our air conditioner went out, and again, I don`t have a safety net to fall back on,” said Jeanet.
Grace will still deal with medicine, side effects, and doctor's visits, but she's happy to be through with treatment. She has a message for those still fighting. “Just keep fighting. It will come one day, and you`re done and it`s a good day,' said Grace.
The Pinky Swear Foundation has a couple fundraisers coming up. It's forming a team for the IMT Des Moines Marathon, which you can still join. WHO Radio with have its annual Radiothon on Friday, December 13th.