Elizabeth Copeman thought she injured herself by picking up something too heavy at her job at a Venice daycare, causing an egg-shaped lump in her breast. Through a workman’s compensation insurance examination, she found out she had Stage 1 aggressive breast cancer.

Without insurance, all the medical attention she could get was a mammogram at a free clinic to confirm the diagnosis and then a consultation through a friend’s doctor that the tumor in her breast needed to come out immediately.

Armed with that unsettling knowledge and no health insurance, Elizabeth and her daughter waded through several months of delays trying to find someone to treat her. Her daughter researched grants and foundations to see if funding was available. A major cancer center said it would be more than a month before they could see her. She found out there was not a breast cancer surgeon in Charlotte County.

“We were getting pretty nervous,” Elizabeth said.

Starting to despair, but unwilling to give up, her daughter called the Regional Cancer Center at the recommendation of a friend. She set up an appointment, and within two days, Elizabeth had been approved for a treatment grant from the Sharon MacDonald Breast Health Fund. Two weeks later she had a lumpectomy.

“We went in, and within two days got approved with the grant,” she said. “That’s amazing. I can’t say enough. They deserve an award!”

The delay in removing the lump resulted in an additional 18 treatments of chemotherapy that would not have been necessary if the tumor had been removed immediately. Elizabeth is grateful she didn’t have to delay treatment any longer after connecting with Lee Health.

“I’m in awe of the whole thing,” she said. “It didn’t matter where I was, whoever worked for Lee Health treated me so well. The load off my mind and shoulders was gigantic. When you know you have cancer and bills to pay and no way to pay them, it interferes with your healing.”

Copeman, a quilter for more than 35 years, looks forward to going back to teaching quilting and sewing for people.

I don’t have the words to say how thankful and grateful I am,” she said. “I get emotional when I talk about it. It means so much to me. I got to see my daughter turn 25 years old.”

Sharon MacDonald Breast Health Fund