LUCAS COUNTY (WTOL) - If you're black, you are 42 percent more likely to die from breast cancer than if you were white.
Susan G. Komen of Northwest Ohio has a new initiative aimed at helping close this health gap in part by increasing outreach to under-served communities such as minorities.
To say retired nurse assistant Lois Reed is grateful for this Komen effort is an understatement.
"They saved my life," exclaimed Reed.
A one-year breast cancer survivor, Reed admits her first thought after learning she had pre-cancer in one breast was not about the disease, but how she could afford treatment. This included chemotherapy, a double mastectomy, and reconstructive breast surgery.
Like other patients, she is on a fixed income and Medicare.
She asked herself how was she going to pay for her treatment and knew other minority patients have had the same thought.
"They never went to the doctor because they didn't have no money. So they're scared, if I go, will they turn me down because I don't have no insurance?," said Lois.
Komen of Northwest Ohio's research confirmed Reed's fears of being able to afford cancer care.
Some of the barriers which keep neighbors from diverse backgrounds from living their healthiest lives include lack of insurance, low income, lack of healthcare, as well as cultural and language differences.
To help reverse this trend, the organization gifts gr ants to local partners, specifically targeting minority outreach.
Because of a gr ant from Susan G. Komen of Northwest Ohio to the Hospital Council of Northwest Ohio, Reed received medical, emotional, and financial support which paid for her life-saving treatment.
She connected with Andrea Vazquez. Vazquez is a Toledo Lucas County CareNet community health worker. She is also known as Reed's "guardian angel."
Vazquez helped Reed with utility bills, food boxes and the instructions she got from her doctor.
"We went over it in our time where we, she can sit down and absorb it and understand it," said Vazquez.
Reed said the medical and financial assistance and moral support helped her focus on getting better.
"They will help you. All the way to the top of a mountain, they will help you," affirmed Reed.
With this financial and emotional support, as well as a new lease on life, this mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother wants to go back to school and become a social worker so she can help children in need.
Reed added that after she beat breast cancer, she now feels like she can accomplish anything.