Helping a Family Weather the Storm: The Patient and Family Assistance Fund

Northwestern Medicine
News January 23, 2014
Annette MartinAnnette Martin is a devoted mother, hard worker and breast cancer survivor. In 2013, her 21-year-old son was diagnosed with osteosarcoma*, a type of malignant bone tumor. This illness triggered a series of setbacks that Martin and her family weathered with the help of the Patient and Family Assistance Fund and other groups. 

Annette Martin has spent many birthdays celebrating her victory over breast cancer. Now a 14-year survivor, her birthday is marked by a dinner party for her eight children, other family members, and friends. For the past 10 years, she has held a fundraising raffle at this celebration to raise funds for the fight against the disease that she conquered. On her next birthday, she will be able to celebrate not only her own survival, but that of her son, Jericoh, a star basketball player who is now 21.

In 2013, Jericoh noticed a small knot on his chest that grew rapidly. His alarmed mother took him to their physician who diagnosed him with osteosarcoma*, a malignant bone tumor which is known to strike young people. The physician then referred Jericoh to the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University and Northwestern Memorial Hospital for treatment.

As the weeks passed, the requirements of caring for a cancer patient took their toll. Martin lost her job due to the time she needed to spend with her son, which led to the loss of the family’s home. First, Martin turned to her network of family and friends for help. She and her children had places to live while they looked for a permanent home. When they found a new dwelling but needed financial assistance for the first month’s rent, Martin turned to Northwestern Memorial’s social workers for help.

The social worker who worked with the family says, “When a patient undergoes surgery and then intensive treatment such as this, having a permanent place to stay has a strong positive impact on their recovery.” The social worker used Patient and Family Assistance funds to cover the family’s first month’s rent, and also connected Martin with Sharing Connections and Goodwill for other needs in the new home.

The family moved into their new apartment, and Jericoh underwent a 10-hour surgery on October 1. Afterwards, Martin jokes, “He was awake and texting everybody with a tube in his throat.”

A grueling course of treatment lay ahead; Jericoh was admitted to Northwestern Memorial every other week, for five days at a time, for intensive chemotherapy. In between his treatments, he had other medical appointments as well.

Says Martin of the social workers who helped her, “They are lovely—the absolute best. They cared not just about my son, but about the whole family,” says Martin. “I hope by sharing my story that people know they can reach out for support.”

Martin’s first grandchild was born in Northwestern’s Prentice Women’s Hospital while Jericho was undergoing treatment, which was a joyous event during a trying time.

Jericoh continues to improve and will soon end his chemotherapy. Due to her previous battle with breast cancer, Martin is able to encourage her son and help keep his spirits up with the empathy and perspective of a fellow cancer survivor.

“This year, my 55th birthday celebration will be extra special after all we’ve been through. Usually, Jericoh and the other men who attend aren’t too excited about wearing pink for breast cancer. But this year he’ll be glad to wear the pink.”

The Patient and Family Assistance Fund provides eligible patients and their families with help when their non-medical needs can impact their recovery from illness or injury. You can donate online to this fund at http://foundation.nmh.org/paf.

For more information about the philanthropic needs of this program, please contact Kathryn Michael of Northwestern Memorial Foundation via email or at 312.926.4115.
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