Kingsport native Carrie Lewis has seen firsthand how devastating the illness is to everyone involved. When she was 5 years old, her grandfather was diagnosed with cancer. During her childhood, she would have a grandmother, a great-grandmother, a great-grandfather and a great-uncle all develop various types of cancer. Her mother-in-law was also diagnosed with breast cancer about six years ago. “I found myself having anxiety issues every time someone close to me got sick. I was always terrified of them developing cancer,” Carrie said.
In addition, Carrie dealt with many cancer patients while working for a local home healthcare company and an insurance company over the years. One of the issues that she repeatedly saw in a cancer patient’s life was the great financial cost of treatment. “I saw firsthand the need for financial assistance for these families,” she said.
As cancer patients struggle for their lives, the added financial stress makes it even more difficult. According to a survey conducted by the Association of Oncology Social Work, more than half of cancer patients indicate that cancer costs negatively impact their ability to focus on fighting their cancer.
Both Carrie’s personal and professional experiences challenged her to make a difference in the lives of cancer patients and their families. Determined to do something to help, she joined forces with her pastor Chad Roberts of Preaching Christ Church in Kingsport. She began to call local hospitals to see if she could serve their cancer patients in any way and discovered the Wellmont Patient Assistance Fund. The fund helps local patients and their families with expenses such as gas, electric bills, groceries and rent.
Employees of the Wellmont Cancer Institute contribute financially to help meet the needs of their patients. In 2016, they donated nearly $77,000. When Carrie and her pastor learned of the incredible efforts of Wellmont employees to give care and compassion to those they are treating, they knew that this was what they wanted to get behind and support. So they formed the organization, Friends for the Fight. Since their first fundraiser in 2015, they have donated over $18,000 to the Wellmont Patient Assistance Fund.
Carrie said that partnering with the Wellmont Cancer Institute to support cancer patients has helped her to cope with her anxiety regarding cancer.
“I felt that the Lord had laid this mission heavily on my heart and that this was the way that He was going to help me cope with all the terminal illness I had been through with family members since I was a young child,” she explained.
Sheila Davis of Rogersville gives high praise to Friends for the Fight and to the employees of the Wellmont Cancer Institute. Her husband, Henry, just passed away after a battle with lymphoma and carcinoma. She is grateful for the help they received over the past year from the Wellmont Patient Assistance Fund.
“When we were out of work and struggling, they gave us gas cards and paid our water and light bills. It was a huge help. They all work so hard and do so much,” Sheila said. The couple was also given tickets to last year's fundraiser, which was a great encouragement to them as they heard testimonies from other cancer victims. “We had such a good time and were able to talk to others that have been through this. It was really wonderful,” Sheila said.
While coping with her tragic loss, Sheila shared that she is trusting God day by day. She agreed to share their story because of her sincere gratitude to those who had helped them so much. “I want to try to help in any way I can because they had helped us so very much,” Sheila explained.
Carrie said that when she first had the idea of helping to raise money for cancer patients, she didn't know if she would be able to raise enough money to help enough people.
“However, my mindset was that if I could just help one family, it was enough for me to know that I had helped someone in some way,” she said. Many families have been helped so far, but Carrie is asking the public for their support to help many more.
One way to help is to attend Friends for the Fight’s Third Annual Cancer Fundraising Dinner. The event will take place on Saturday, Oct. 7 at 5 p.m. at the Kingsport Farmers Market. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under. Group tables (seating for 8) are also available for $160. The event will feature a meal catered by Braeden’s BBQ, live music by the band Folk Soul Revival, a silent auction and raffles. In addition to attending the dinner, you can also make a donation so that a cancer patient can attend the event. There are sponsorship opportunities at various levels with benefits offered within each tier. You can also purchase gas cards which are given to patients, or purchase a T-shirt. Friends for the Fight is a non-profit organization and all donations are tax deductible. To purchase tickets to the upcoming fundraiser, make a donation or for more details on sponsorship options, visit www.friendsforthefight.com.