Shortly after Carrie's 2012 diagnosis of Stage III breast cancer, she began an arduous course of treatment including mastectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation, followed by multiple reconstruction surgeries. Along the way, she met other breast cancer patients. The physical and emotional toll of cancer was obvious, but she hadn’t fully realized how financially devastating breast cancer could be.
She met patients who literally could not afford the gas to get back and forth to treatments. Patients who could not afford to pay for necessary medication that wasn’t covered by insurance. Patients who were so sick they couldn’t work and as a result, didn’t have enough money to pay rent or buy groceries. Patients who couldn’t afford to buy their kids’ school clothes. Everyday necessities became luxuries. It was heartbreaking and just wrong!
She just couldn’t shake the worry she saw on fellow patients' faces as they wondered how they would make ends meet. Despite her own medical and financial struggles, she looked for a solution and tried to find local organizations that offered substantive ongoing financial support for breast cancer patients. There were a few organizations in the surrounding area that could offer a support group, wig or the like, but no financial support. It was then she realized what her purpose was. In 2014, she enlisted her best friend Christina to help establish The CARE Project, Inc. (TCP). TCP's mission was to provide emotional and financial support to male and female breast cancer patients. They didn’t have experience running a nonprofit, but they had guts, grit, determination and heart! They wanted patients to focus on healing, not finances. They started out in Carrie's apartment and received donations mostly from family and close friends who believed in her “big, bright idea.” Their first year, they raised $8,000 and provided 16 patients with $7,700 in financial assistance and gift cards. (Financial assistance for rent, utilities, groceries, household goods.)
Soon after they opened their doors, it became clear that in addition to financial support, many patients yearned for emotional support and companionship outside of a traditional support group setting. They created the Survivor Social Club. This would become a relaxed, small group of survivors and newly diagnosed patients who share a common bond and thrive on being with others who have “been there, done that.” Carrie realized the newly diagnosed needed mentors to help them understand the complexities of treatment. They then created the Survivor Mentor Program, guided by Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Raychelle Addo. (A childhood friend of Carrie's, who’s own mother battled breast cancer twice.)
Fast forward to 2019: With seven years between Carrief and her initial diagnosis, she realized that “Survivorship” is the hardest part of the cancer experience for her and many others. Breast cancer forever alters their lives emotionally and physically. Getting over the initial barrage of surgery, chemo and radiation is only the first step. The truth is medical, financial and emotional scars can last a lifetime and the need for ongoing support is real. (Thus, the motto “Never Stop Caring!”) The TCP Wellness Program was created to help with the survivorship challenges. In their office, they have a fitness room where patients and survivors can work out in a clean, safe environment. Yoga classes are taught by an oncology nurse navigator specifically trained in yoga for breast cancer patients. They also have a meditation and massage room for patients, caregivers and survivors to escape to a quiet, serene space. Meditation, Reiki and Massage Therapy are provided in this beautiful space. They have developed a Wellness Team of professionals who will come in at least quarterly to host workshops, classes and the like. The team consists of a Registered Yoga Teacher, Nutritionists, Life Coaches, Personal Trainers, Licensed Clinical Social Workers, Gynecologist and hormone expert as well as their own Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Angela D. Martin who is an expert in Diabetes and internal medicine.