Crowdfunding to Afford Cancer


Young adults have always been a unique segment of the cancer community. The obstacles they endure during and after cancer treatment are unique and specific to their age and life stage, and are still sorely under researched and underrepresented. Given our focus on the financial aftermath of young adult cancer, our team recently teamed up with Lauren V. Ghazal PhD, FNP-BC at the University of Michigan and Sheila J. Santacroce  PHD, RN, CPNP at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to examine the emergence of crowdfunding as a strategy for covering medical and other daily living expenses. Namely, we investigated the ways in which crowdfunding often causes and exacerbates stigma and magnifies feelings of shame, and questioned why it has become increasingly necessary, especially for cancer survivors.


Since 2003, Samfund programs have focused on supporting young adult survivors who are just beginning their independent lives, beginning their first jobs, or even starting families. Even before a cancer diagnosis, many young adults lack savings or financial stability; after treatment, the bills pile up and the overwhelming costs become too much to bear. In order to manage the bills, many young adults are forced to exhaust their limited resources, seek out financial assistance programs (like ours), and even individually crowdfund through sites like GoFundMe, posting on social media and reaching out to friends and family for donations.The costs of cancer, so excruciatingly high, remains unchecked and unregulated, which is how this systemic problem becomes an individual one. 


The presence of GoFundMe and similar pages is constant on social media, though the idea of crowdfunding is certainly not new. Our team wondered about the emotional impact for the individuals behind those pages: How does it feel to have to ask for money from both loved ones and strangers in such a public forum?  By surveying our network of young adult Samfund grant recipients, we were able to confirm what we have always suspected: many feel an oppressive weight of shame and heightened vulnerability. They are burdened by the stigma—the embarrassment of asking for donations to pay for medical bills and living expenses—in addition to the distress and hardship that already accompany survivorship.


Facing cancer is terrifying enough—its impact on an individual's life can be overwhelming and frightening. The last thing young adult survivors should have to worry about is how they’ll afford to live afterwards. The last thing they need is additional feelings of helplessness and shame


Together, we can do better to advocate and support this subsect of the cancer community, pushing for better legislation, better infrastructure within our healthcare system, and more. 


To read the full report, click here.

Get to Know Us: Jaime Waldecker
Financial Literacy for Young Adult Cancer Survivor...

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