Surpassing $250,000+ in Grants to Celebrate Life

Surpassing $250,000+ in Grants to Celebrate Life

Susan G. Komen East Tennessee is proud to have invested more than $250,000 in community grant funding to Celebrate Life Cancer Support Group since the organization was first awarded in 2002. In fact, the cumulative total awarded through the current 2019-2020 grant cycle is $261,431. These funds have primarily provided financial assistance to women and men actively undergoing breast cancer treatment. The group has also used small portions of the funding to provide “manna baskets” (nutritious snacks) to breast cancer patients hospitalized in Sevier and Jefferson counties.

A History of Selfless Service

Sharon Taylor-Manning (L) and Michele Sexton (R) of Celebrate Life with Amy Dunaway, Komen East TN (Center)

Celebrate Life is managed entirely by volunteers, with the program’s founder and director, Michele Sexton, leading at the helm. Michele is a breast cancer survivor, and she created Celebrate Life Support Group to fill an unmet need in her community.

In her bio, Michele describes her life during treatment and the experiences that motivated her to take action:

“This was my new reality. So I decided to learn something from it, mainly how to accept I needed help and to admit it and allow others the blessing of helping me and to really look and see the people that were in the chemo room with me and see their journey. I saw a woman cry because she said chemo was killing her not helping her. I heard a man tell someone that his wife left him because she couldn’t take “his” cancer anymore. Another person said they got sick and not working meant no pay and no insurance. Someone said they couldn’t afford the gas to go to chemo and radiation both. These people were living my worst fears, mainly how was my cancer killing my relationships and affecting the ones I loved. I had insurance, good insurance. My husband could not fire me and I had many offers to drive me to treatments. My family, church family and friends were all very supportive. I had breast cancer, I was taking treatments, I was sick but I was blessed…

During a weekly check, up I told my radiation oncologist, Dr. Joseph Meyer, that I would like to go to a cancer support group. I asked if he knew of one, and he replied that there were some in Knoxville.  Well, I lived in Dandridge, was in treatment, and the thought of travelling to Knoxville didn’t appeal to me. I needed some where closer.  He said, “Well, Michele, start one.” So, this is where the leadership trait of the lion came into play.  I finished my radiation, had reconstruction surgery, and then I put an article in our local newspaper saying I wanted to start a cancer support group: if anyone was interested, they could come to my house on Thursday March 22, 1999 at 7:00 pm.

There were 8 of us the night Celebrate Life Cancer Support Group was born in my living room.”

Celebrate Life Board Members with Jessica Waddell, Komen East TN (March 2019)

Helping Patients Remain In Treatment

Celebrate Life is a valued partner. When a patient undergoing breast cancer treatment contacts the Komen East TN office seeking assistance, we take comfort in connecting them with Michele and the other volunteer leaders. We regularly see evidence that Komen’s funding is meeting crucial patient needs.

Komen’s Bold Goal is to reduce the current number of breast cancer deaths in the US by 50% by 2026. A third of the lives we hope to save simply need timely access to quality care in order to survive. However, the financial burdens of cancer treatment often result in breast cancer patients delaying or discontinuing treatment due to the cost.

Komen East TN’s funding to Celebrate Life helps pay for critical financial needs of local breast cancer patients. Our goal is to ensure that East Tennesseans battling cancer can complete their treatments as originally scheduled. No one should have to choose between staying in treatment and buying groceries, having transportation to treatment, or paying basic living expenses like rent or utilities.

How to Request Financial Assistance

If you or a loved one is currently undergoing treatment for breast cancer, please contact Susan G. Komen East Tennessee at 865-588-0902.

To determine eligibility, callers will be asked for basic information about the patient in treatment and their need:

  • Full name and date of birth
  • Contact information (phone, mailing address, etc.)
  • Current diagnosis and treatment status
  • Financial situation and greatest need(s) – if requesting assistance with a bill (e.g. a utility bill), please provide a copy of the invoice to be paid
  • Names of cancer treatment doctors/clinics (treatment status must be verified)

Komen East TN staff will assist you in completing an application for financial assistance, as well as verify the patient’s current treatment status. Once this information is obtained in full, the patient will be connected with Celebrate Life who will disburse the financial aid.