Fall 2020

Easing cancer’s burden

A new cancer patient support fund helps to relieve some of the financial anxieties that can accompany a cancer diagnosis

Retirement hasn’t stopped former cancer physician Gary Grammens, M.D., from helping patients.

In 2016, Grammens—who worked as a hematologist and oncologist at M Health Fairview University of Minnesota Medical Center—and his wife, Nancy, a former nurse, created the Dr. Gary L. and Nancy J. Grammens Cancer Patient Support Fund to provide emergency financial assistance for patients and their families. Cancer care and recovery aren’t cheap, and the financial burden of the disease only amplifies a person’s stress.

“Understandably, patients are very anxious and concerned about their prognosis,” Gary Grammens says. “Underlying a lot of that anxiety, though, are financial concerns.”

The fund was created to relieve some of that anxiety by helping patients pay for expenses like mortgages and rent, utility bills, co-pays, and medication expenses, as well as supplementing lost wages during the course of a person’s treatment.

As the COVID-19 pandemic began in earnest, the Grammenses immediately thought of those who were also managing a cancer diagnosis. Even in the best of times, life with cancer is an extraordinary challenge, Gary Grammens says. A global pandemic makes it even more daunting.

With no time to waste, the couple launched a dollar-for-dollar match challenge in the spring to accelerate support for the emergency assistance fund. 

By August, nearly 300 donors had heeded their call to action, raising almost $45,000 for cancer patients.

“We’re all going through this frightening pandemic together,” Nancy Grammens says. “We know these funds can help to provide some comfort and relief to cancer patients and their families now.”