More patients may need financial help from the Sharon MacDonald Breast Health Fund because of the pandemic

By: Tammy Zinn, director for clinical support services at Lee Health’s Regional Cancer Center

This October, the pandemic is likely to take some of the focus from what is traditionally Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

But it’s the pandemic that makes this year’s focus on breast cancer awareness, particularly the ability to get prompt diagnosis and treatment, so critical.

Beginning in March, elective procedures (anything that wasn’t needed to save someone’s life) were postponed. Breast cancer screening was considered elective, so many mammograms and other types of cancer screening were delayed or cancelled to reduce the risk of transmitting COVID-19 and to preserve personal protective equipment. COVID-19 has caused delays and disruptions in some medical care, adding extra anxiety and uncertainty, even as some studies have found a potential correlation between stress and cancer.

Add financial fallout, including loss of employment and insurance, and the impacts of the pandemic on cancer will be felt for some time, increasing the need for financial help for cancer treatment.

In 2017, The John E. & Aliese Price Foundation Inc. and Lee Health Foundation established the Sharon MacDonald Breast Health Fund to honor Sharon MacDonald, the retired chief administrative officer who helped create Lee Health’s Regional Cancer Center. Since then, generous donors have helped cover the cost of treatment for 150 women and men in our community who are battling breast cancer, including diagnostics, radiation, medication and other services.

During this year’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, or HOPETOBER as we like to call it, the Price Foundation is again challenging the community with a $250,000 grant. If our community steps up to meet the challenge, we would double the amount of support we can provide to our neighbors in need of breast cancer treatment.

The support is critical for patients like Elizabeth Copeman, who without medical insurance, didn’t know where to turn for treatment of her Stage 1 aggressive breast cancer. After she spent three months trying to find someone to care for her, she learned of the Regional Cancer Center, a comprehensive cancer program providing compassionate care close to home. Within two days of her first appointment, she received a grant from the Sharon MacDonald Fund which helped reduce her stress and anxiety so she could focus on getting well.

“If you know you have cancer and you know you have bills to pay and no way to pay them, it interferes with your healing,” Copeman said. “I’m in awe of the whole thing. I have no words to say how thankful and grateful I am.”

The Sharon MacDonald Breast Health Fund is different from other funds that raise money during Breast Cancer Awareness Month because 100 percent of donations stay in Southwest Florida to promote successful outcomes for area patients battling breast cancer. The grants also allow area patients to choose to go out of the area for treatment if they find a provider that will partner with them and accept the terms of the grant.

Since one in eight women will develop invasive breast cancer during her lifetime, it’s likely that every Southwest Florida resident knows someone who either was diagnosed with breast cancer or is actively undergoing treatment. By donating to the Sharon MacDonald Breast Health Fund, you can help us turn October into HOPETOBER and help your friends and neighbors in need of lifesaving care.

About the Author

Tammy Zinn is the Director for Clinical Support Services at the Regional Cancer Center. For more information or to donate to the Sharon MacDonald Breast Health Fund or other funds to help cancer patients receive care, please call the Lee Health Foundation at 239-343-6950 or visit