GREENFIELD — In the past few months, Dora Dixon has seen more doctors than she can count.
After a mammogram at the end of May revealed two lumps in her breast — one precancerous, the other in the early stages of the disease — her world was suddenly filled with scans, biopsies and talk of treatment.
She never panicked, but there was one question that weighed heavily on her mind: How would she pay for all this?
Dixon, a Fortville resident, is one of hundreds of women who each year receive financial assistance from Women Helping Women, a program coordinated by the Hancock Regional Hospital Foundation that is dedicated to aiding uninsured and underinsured women in Hancock County.
Story continues below gallery
The foundation hosted its 17th annual Women Helping Women fundraiser Wednesday, bringing in thousands of dollars to help cover the costs of breast cancer screenings, mammograms and other diagnostic procedures for local women in need.
Everything from Dixon’s mammogram at the Jane Pauley Clinic to her tests at the hospital’s Andis Women’s Clinic were paid for through Women Helping Women donations. Representatives with the program helped Dixon enroll in Medicaid, scheduled her surgery and regularly checked in with her as she underwent cancer treatments.
Dixon said the help had her breathing a little easier.
“I couldn’t have done it without them,” she said. “They told me not to worry about the medical bills; someone would get them taken care of. If they hadn’t stepped in, I don’t know what I would have done.”
Women Helping Women began in 1998 with the creation of the Women’s Health Task Force. The program’s first celebration and fundraiser was planned the next year, and more than $10,000 in donations led to 26 women receiving mammograms.
Efforts have flourished over the years, with more than $50,000 being raised in 2014 and 218 uninsured women receiving mammograms, screening and other health care.
The 2015 event should prove to be just as successful, said Nancy Davis, executive director of the hospital’s foundation.
A record 370 people attended Wednesday’s “Tackle Breast Cancer” event, bringing in nearly $30,000 in ticket sales, which will be added to sponsorships, donations and profits from a live and silent auction. People who attended the event represent the “small army” of Hancock County residents who come together in the fight breast cancer, Davis said.
During her years with the foundation, Davis said, she has seen how many lives Women Helping Women has touched; she’s heard patients share their stories and talk about how the staff at the Andis Women’s Clinic — the facet of the hospital where the program’s patients receive their care — made them feel special and loved.
There is no stigma, and the treatments don’t feel like handouts, Davis said.
The program provides a way for people to give back and for the foundation to serve the community, she said.
Women Helping Women stays by the patients’ side, even after their treatments have subsided, those close to the program said.
Dixon’s cancer is gone, but her attention has turned to issues with her heart and blood pressure that were discovered during her mastectomy. Women Helping Women provided her with gift cards for groceries and gas cards to help her get to and from treatments, and Becky Pohland, the Andis Women’s Clinic coordinator, often checks in with her to see how her care is progressing, Dixon said.
For Pohland, helping women receive adequate breast health care has become a passion. As the coordinator of the clinic, she’s charged with organizing the care Women Helping Women patients receive.
As a breast cancer survivor, she knows firsthand what they are experiencing and can relate to the feelings of fear and worry that can come with a cancer diagnosis. The clinic tries to get patients, regardless of their ability to pay, results and treatment plans as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Along the way, Pohland said, she is able to meet amazing and positive women, like Dixon, and she’s able to see Women Helping Women’s efforts take shape first hand.
The annual fundraiser gives the community a similar opportunity, the chance to see the faces and hear the names of the women their donations are used to support, organizer said.
On Wednesday, attendees heard the stories of Women Helping Women patients and had a brief lesson about cancer and the latest treatment options from local oncologist Dr. Julia Compton.
Compton told the crowd of how their donations have extended the Women Helping Women efforts to encompass preventive and diagnostic health care.
She reminded the crowd how important it was for those who have been touched by cancer, whether they are a family member or friend, survivor or patient, to share their tales of the disease so those who are still fighting will hang on to hope.
“Women are strong, we are mighty; and when we come together, our voices are heard,” she said.
“Women are strong, we are mighty; and when we come together, our voices are heard.”
Oncologist Dr. Julia Compton, at Wednesday’s Women Helping Women fundraiser