Patient Spotlights



Follow-up care after breast cancer treatment is so important and having an oncology team you trust is paramount. Maryanne, a former professor at George Washington University, knows first-hand the importance of follow up after her initial diagnosis of stage 1 breast cancer in 2004.

For 16 years, her oncologist at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) kept a close eye on Maryanne. Although Maryanne’s results were okay in 2019, her oncologist did not trust them because of an elevated marker level. In the spring of 2020, during the height of the pandemic Maryanne went in for more testing. Her oncology team found a mutated breast cancer cell on her spine. Without the concern and quick actions of her team, Maryanne might have been paralyzed.

First, Maryanne started an oral medication as her first round of treatment to shrink her lesion. Although her daughter was only about two miles away from her Brighton apartment, 77-year-old Maryanne felt completely isolated. With her immune system compromised from treatment, Maryanne was nervous about the COVID-19 pandemic that raged on outside. Usually a busy woman, accustomed to dog sitting for her friends and neighbors, visiting with her daughter, Maryanne felt the darkness of a metastatic breast cancer diagnosis on top of a worldwide pandemic. Soon she needed to start daily radiation treatments at the main campus of MGH, in the heart of Boston. Although she is savvy with public transportation, the one-hour commute on the subway was out of the question. Maryanne worried.

As a former political science professor, Maryanne is an avid news watcher. Tuned into WCVB one night in June, she was introduced to Ellie Fund. It was the organization’s first ever virtual “5 for Ellie” event. Patients shared their breast cancer journeys and how Ellie Fund helped them through their treatment. “I need to apply,” thought Maryanne. She picked up the phone and dialed. Anne, Ellie Fund’s patient coordinator walked Maryanne through the application process and the type of services she would benefit from most. 

“Ellie Fund was the something positive I needed. It really was a miracle to me. The helping hand I needed,” said Maryanne. Ellie Fund provided Maryanne with Uber gift cards to get to and from treatment and Whole Foods gift cards. “I couldn’t have afforded to get to treatment in the Uber XL at the height of the Pandemic. You were the only help that was working for what I needed,” explained Maryanne.

Holidays are especially difficult times for breast cancer patients as the typical social get togethers are unsafe for someone with a suppressed immune system. For Thanksgiving, Ellie Fund volunteers delivered a traditional holiday meal and flowers. It was just the pick-me-up Maryanne needed. “It was a touching moment. I’ve never received such beautifully, artistically arranged flowers. There was a beautiful card with a dog that had soulful eyes. I kept it and look at it often.”

Although Maryanne was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, her oncologist is cautiously optimistic. Now vaccinated, she is ready to embrace whatever comes next… including resuming her favorite activity of sitting dogs.

“In the darkest time of Covid, Ellie Fund was a beacon of light. Human kindness matters.