“You have cancer.”
Those words have echoed through millions of ears, leaving newly diagnosed patients to wonder, “How can I do this?”
The Red Lipstick Fund, part of the Boulder Community Health Foundation at Boulder Community Health, strives to relieve the financial stress of cancer patients by providing grants to help ease monetary burdens so that patients can focus on what’s most important: beating cancer. Established in 1978, the BCH Foundation supports BCH, a non-profit health system, in funding the highest value health care in the community.
“We’ve allocated hundreds of thousands of dollars to our patients over the years removing financial barriers and improving access to our services,” says Michele Sternitzky, associate vice president of nursing at BCH. “As caregivers we seek to help our patients, so when we have an answer for our patients’ financial burdens it brings great joy to everyone involved.”
The Red Lipstick Fund (RLF) was founded by three Boulder women: Helayne Jones, Anne Beer and Fran Ryan. The three were inspired by Marsha Moritz, their mutual friend, and her concern for cancer patients having to juggle financial, emotional and physical stress. Marsha unfortunately was diagnosed with breast cancer and passed away in 2010. The Red Lipstick Fund got its name from the red lipstick Marsha always wore.
“RLF has provided extraordinary support for things like airfare, bicycles, hotel stays and visas, but the everyday smaller things like groceries, gas, childcare and keeping the heat on is where RLF truly eases the everyday financial fears,” says Nanna Christensen, oncology nurse navigator at BCH.
Nanna and Michele are integral to RLF and will refer their patients to the grants that the fund provides. Seeing firsthand the toll that cancer has on their patients, Nanna and Michele are grateful for the community that continuously donates to RLF through the Boulder Community Health Foundation.
“RLF saves lives and provides patients with what I call ‘a hug from the community.’ We all know when we get that big hug, we breathe easier and we know that we are not alone,” Nanna says.
“We’ve received many letters and firsthand thank you’s from the recipients, their families and community members who understand the impact of this grant,” Michele says. “For some patients, by providing this financial support, it allows them to make treatment their first priority.”
If you are interested in volunteer opportunities or making a donation to the Red Lipstick Fund, please visit bch.org/rlf.