Shelli Smith, 57, remembers spending her 55th birthday in the hospital. She had just been diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, and her initial treatment was radiation to her spine to shrink a tumor that was causing pain. Chemotherapy, a mastectomy and more radiation followed.

Shelli says she received tremendous support from family and friends. Some came all the way from Georgia to gather around her. Her nephew moved in for a year to help out.

Today, Shelli says she is stable and feeling great, but it’s been a long road — in more ways than one.

Shelli lives an hour from Portland, where she receives treatment. Due to neuropathy (a common side effect of chemotherapy that causes pain and/or numbness in the peripheral nervous system), Shelli’s husband does all the driving. After driving into work and putting in a full day, he would drive home to pick up Shelly. Then, they’d drive back into Portland for her appointment before driving home a final time.

It was a lot of time, miles and tanks of gas. Radiation alone was 5 days a week, for 5 weeks.

Living far from treatment is an extra — and expensive — hurdle that some breast cancer patients face. And it’s the very reason behind the Treatment Access Program powered by the Toni Mountain Fund: to help underserved breast cancer patients throughout Oregon and SW Washington with food, lodging and transportation costs during treatment. The program used to reside with our local Susan G. Komen chapter, but when they closed their office in 2021, the program found a new home with Pink Lemonade Project. Typically serving 245 individuals per year, the program provided support to about 800 people in 2021.

Shelli says the help was unexpected and definitely appreciated.

Pink Lemonade Project offers two financial assistance programs: the Treatment Access Program powered by the Toni Mountain Fund and Pink Practicalities.

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