Denver-area mom fighting breast cancer gets help with household expenses from Sense of Security

Nonprofit helps patients focus on healing

DENVER - Carol Brown had just become a mom and was looking forward to the holidays with her daughter when she noticed a lump in her breast.

Soon afterward, doctors delivered some terrifying news. 

"They said, 'Yes, you do have cancer.' And I said, 'Alrighty, have a merry Christmas and I'll talk to you next week,'" Brown recalls.

The months ahead included aggressive treatment. She had too much to lose and her young daughter, Clementine, needed her.

"I was told there was a 50/50 chance it would come back with just chemotherapy alone," Brown said.

So she told her doctor, "Well, I have a little year and a half year old. No, that's not a good enough prognosis. Go ahead take them both."

She decided to have a double mastectomy followed by months of chemotherapy and radiation treatments -- all while continuing to work. 

"Friday I had the surgery. I got out of the hospital on Sunday and on Tuesday my parents drove me to the office to get paperwork so I could work from home,"  Brown said.

But, the cancer treatments began taking a toll emotionally, physically and financially.

"People would ask me where I get the strength and I would say, 'I have a little girl who needs me," said Brown during a recent interview while cooking dinner with her now 4-year-old daughter.

Brown tells 7NEWS one of the unexpected struggles was simply making household payments. Her savings were depleted.

"I had rent to pay. I had utilities to pay. I had diapers to buy, food to buy and all the daily necessities. Plus, I'm her sole provider so what do I do?" asked the Arvada single mom.

"I'm not one to ask for help and I thought I could do it all.  You work 50 hours a week. You have that income. You have that padding.  You're building a future, a home for your daughter and that's stripped overnight," she said, holding back the tears. 

That's when Brown reached out to Sense of Security.

"We don't just serve the patient, we serve the entire family because we pay the bill," said Sense of Security founder, Vicki Tosher.

In 2000, Tosher took inspiration from a close friend's experience and started the Colorado nonprofit to do exactly that, provide a sense of security for breast cancer patients while they are in treatment. Sense of Security helps patients maintain the basic comforts in life by paying household expenses like mortgage, rent, groceries, utilities, child care and transportation.

To date, nearly 1,000 breast cancer patients have received assistance through Sense of Security.

I knew what it was like to have those every day bills coming in, whether daily, weekly or monthly," Tosher said. "It's the standard stuff, the stuff you just can't do without, the bills that keep a roof over your head, food on the table and your family intact."

Sense of Security stepped in to take something off Carol’s plate during critical months, allowing her health to take priority.

"I was scrounging money together, and Sense of Security did help by paying my rent," Brown recalled. "They just took away some of the stress. When everything ran out, Sense of Security came through."

Dennis Heffern is an oncology social worker at Kaiser Permanente.  He says so often patients and their families can become overwhelmed with the unexpected costs.  

"Just because someone has been diagnosed with cancer, doesn't mean their bills go away. In fact, they tend to increase," said Heffern.

He has referred his patients to Sense of Security for the past 11 years.

"Often times families say, look I think I'm coping ok and yes, I'm stressed out. But if you really want to help me, to coin a phrase, 'show me the money', and SOS really delivers," said Heffern.

Today, nearly three years later, Carol is cancer-free and once again focusing on building a future with her daughter. 

"To have somebody like Sense of Security just alleviated a little of that stress allowed me to focus on getting better," said Brown.

Nearly 1,000 breast cancer patients in Colorado have been helped by Sense of Security. If you would like to support the nonprofit's work, go to http://www.senseofsecurity.org.

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