Cancer Support Team
NON-PROFIT BUSINESS PROFILE
Extraordinary individuals at the Cancer Support Team
One of the most important and much needed non-profits in Westchester is the Cancer Support Team located in Purchase. With Executive Director Tania Weiss at the helm, along with her extraordinary staff and volunteers, it is clear that their mission to enhance the quality of life for cancer patients and their families has been going strong for over 42 years.
When asked how CST is meeting the current challenges of COVID while continuing to keep staff and patients safe, Weiss responded, “The COVID crisis certainly made life more challenging for Cancer Support Team. What makes us different from other agencies is the personal touch. The core of what we do is to visit patients in person one-on-one at home. In that setting it is much easier to educate, support and help them find resources. So, our nurses, case manager and social worker have gotten creative. Meetings take place on the front steps, in the park, outside in a parking lot. Of course, everyone follows CDC guidelines regarding masks, vaccines and maintaining social distance. When needed, we also use telemedicine, but we find ways to be there for our patients.”
Weiss spoke about the rewarding aspects of heading up CST. “Having cancer is really hard, and it affects the whole person – physically, emotionally and of course financially. “As a board member for eleven years before becoming the executive director, I was familiar with the programs CST offers for free to cancer patients and family members. Today, by experiencing firsthand the problems our patients have to handle, I recognize how needed CST is and love being part of a team that works very hard to make the cancer journey a little easier. We cannot cure the disease, but we can make a big difference in the lives of our patients. For instance, our nurse Fran who accompanies her patient to the oncologist to help her ask questions and understand more about her diagnosis and treatment. It isn’t because the doctor doesn’t explain things well, but because like many of us, the patient is anxious asking a medical professional a question, and in addition, in her culture, she has not been taught to advocate for herself. Another recent situation was when CST was able to provide immediate funding for pain medication for a stage 4 pancreatic patient who could not afford it, and otherwise would be suffering. The list goes on and on, but everyday there is a reason I am so happy to be part of CST.”
Most of us know someone who has had cancer. The statistics are about two in five will get a diagnosis at some point in our lives. Westchester County has great cancer centers, but CST has found that many patients need additional support outside of the medical setting. Whether it’s coping with anxiety, chemo brain, fatigue, financial fears, or even what to say to your kids, there are any number of issues patients and care givers have. CST wants to be there for any family that lives in southern Westchester and is dealing with cancer. The need is to make sure people are aware that there is help available.
Because Cancer Support Team does not charge for their services, they have to raise every dollar every year through grants, events and donations. They are one of the few agencies in the county that offers financial assistance grants to patients who qualify. This money is used to pay for items that insurance will not cover – co-pays, medical equipment, even the rent or utility bill. It’s hard to heal from cancer if you are worried about putting food on the table. Even small donations help to offer these grants, and remember they are very local, the money goes to help your friends, family and neighbors. Anyone who is interested can go to www.cancersupportteam/donate. Last year they gave over $62,000 to cancer patients in need.
“’You’ve got cancer’ are three words no one ever wants to hear”, says Elish McGrath, CST’s Director of Patient Services. “The experience can be overwhelming, and no one should ever have to go through this alone. Our team is here to help you partner with your doctors, figure out the finances and even provide counseling and emotional support. I know we make a difference.”