When Beth Herold of was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer at the age of 38 in 2007, she began a long journey that still continues today.
Over the past five years, she has undergone chemotherapy, a mastectomy, radiation, reconstruction, hormone therapy, a hysterectomy and removal of her ovaries.
When the cancer spread to her bones in 2008, Herold continued to work. But in 2010, she was unable to continue working due to the side effects of her treatment.
While her husband Paul has worked at the same company for over 20 years, his company doesn’t offer medical insurance. She said her loss of income and medical costs have resulted in financial difficulties for her family. Herold has been receiving support from the Pay it Forward Fund (PIFF) since 2009.
The Pay it Forward Fund was founded by Orono resident Michelle Morey and her husband Scott Bissen. Morey was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer at the age of 37 in 2005. Her treatment included a mastectomy and eight rounds of chemotherapy. She also took herceptin for one year.
“I was out of work for three months, and it was five months before I went back to work full time,” said Morey. “As the sole provider for my family of four, I was fortunate to have good insurance.”
Because Morey worked for her family business, she was able to take time off for her cancer treatment and to recover. As she neared the end of her treatment, she and her husband wanted to give back by donating money each month to North Memorial to help a patient who was struggling financially.
According to Morey, high deductibles and co-payments, as well as possibly becoming too sick to work during cancer treatment, often cause patients to fall behind on their bills. Morey added that over 60 percent of cancer treatment costs may be indirect and are the responsibility of the patient.
The tagline of the Pay It Forward Fund is “Cancer doesn't care if you get behind on your bills. We do.” The couple's first donation to North Memorial was used to turn a cancer patient’s water back on.
Each month, the Pay It Forward Fund provides over $20,000 to pay cancer patients’ utilities, mortgages or rent, childcare expenses, car repairs, qualifying medical expenses and more. They also provide gift cards for gas and food.
Qualifying patients may receive as much as $1,500 per year during their cancer treatment. To date, close to 700 women have been helped.
The Pay It Forward Fund partners with the North Memorial Foundation (NMF), which means that 100 percent of donations are used to help those in need. The foundation supports 75 hospital program funds while patients receive treatment at North Memorial, Unity, New River and Ridgeview Medical Centers in Minnesota.
For four years, the Pay it Forward Fund has received $100,000 grants from the Minnesota Affiliate of Susan G. Komen.
Since its inception, money has been raised for the Pay it Forward Fund with casino events, walks and concerts. This year’s casino event took place back in February and netted $252,000. Over $64,000 was raised in the last five minutes of the event during the "fund-a-need" effort.
“We called the 2012 Casino night our million dollar year because the six
prior casino nights had raised over $900,000, and this year's event put us over the million dollar mark,” said Morey.
To raise additional funds for the Pay it Forward Fund, Morey and Bissen have held five concerts at their home on Lake Minnetonka. On Sunday, July 15, they will host a Caribbean-themed evening with music, food and beverages. The New Primitives, voted Best Reggae Band by the Minnesota Music Awards for five years in a row, will perform for attendees. Concert tickets are $55.
Last summer’s concert event included an inaugural five-mile walk, which raised more than $35,000. The Orono couple hopes that more than 100 people will participate in this year’s non-competitive walk/run, which will also take place on Sunday, July 15.
Today, Herold only has one strawberry-sized active tumor in her shoulder. She is grateful for the support she has received from the Pay it Forward Fund year after year. Her sons are now 15 and 17 and she said she appreciates every milestone.
Herold is giving back by walking in this year’s event and raising money for the Pay it Forward Fund. She has also participated in other events that raise money to help those with breast cancer.
“I have walked the Twin Cities’ three-day twice,” said Herold. “And I will try that again this August if I can raise the entry fee.”
In the meantime, Herold faces more cancer treatments in July.
“My last day of radiation is the 12th, and I have chemo the 13th,” said Herold. “No rest with this beast.”
Participants in the Pay it Forward Fund walk will receive a t-shirt and a personalized fundraising page to recruit donations. The registration fee is $25 and participants are asked to raise a minimum of $250.
Cancer-free and healthy today, Morey hopes to have 175 concert attendees at this year’s event. The 2011 walk and concert raised a total of $53,000. They hope to raise even more money at this year’s events.
The deadline to register for the Pay it Forward Fund walk and to purchase tickets to the concert is July 10.
For more information about the Pay It Forward Fund and to register for the events, visit www.payitforwardfund.net.