FamiliesCAN Do

 

By Elizabeth Cloutman

Town Crier Staff Writer

Wednesday, April 17, 2002

 

Los Altos-based foundation assists cancer patients and families with nonmedical expenses


 

In February 1998, less than 1 month before their first child was born, Bruce and Jackie Whittier Kubicka traveled from their Portola Valley home to Los Angeles so that Bruce could begin cancer treatment at UCLA Medical Center.

 

The couple returned for the birth of their daughter, Anna, at Stanford University Medical Center, but they went back to Los Angeles when Anna was 6 weeks old so Bruce could continue his course of treatment.

 

The Kubickas' family life has returned to normal, but their experience in Los Angeles has taken Jackie's life on a new course. "After returning home, I sat down and added up our incidental expenses, which amounted to $15,000," Jackie said. "We didn't have a problem with incidental expenses, but it begged the question: How do other families cope with similar situations? The answer is they really don't cope very easily."

 

That thought remained in Jackie's mind. When her father, former Los Altan Ronald Whittier, chairman of Convera Corporation, set up a family foundation two years later, he asked his three grown children what causes they would like the foundation to benefit. Jackie was the first to respond.

 

Working with physicians and social workers at Stanford University Medical Center, she began the FamiliesCAN program in October 2000. FamiliesCAN provides families of adult cancer patients, 18-65, with financial assistance and hand son support in managing nonmedical expenses during the course of the cancer patient's treatment. By last December, the program had benefited 53 families.

 

To be eligible for assistance from FamiliesCAN, a cancer patient must be a Bay Area resident or a nonresident receiving long-term (one month or more) treatment at a Santa Clara County medical center. Jackie hired Los Altos Hills resident Eduarda Francisco as the program's director.

 

Often cancer patients are too ill to work, and a spouse also is forced to missed work to assist in the patient's care -- income drops, and families suddenly find themselves falling behind on bills and rent or mortgage payments. FamiliesCAN procures assistance or pays for a wide range of needs, including rent, mortgage, utilities, travel expenses, attendants, housekeeping, child care and school tuition.

 

Alice, a Los Gatos resident who requested her last name nol be mentioned, said that while her family faced many challenges during her husband's last months of life, FamiliesCAN helped them achieve a sense of stability.

 

"We'd had a lot of financial problems," Alice said. "We'd had to refinance our house a couple of times. We had to sell my husband's truck because he couldn't work. I had to take a lot of time off from work. We were getting deeper and deeper in trouble."

 

FamiliesCAN paid the family's phone and utility bills and gave them gift cards so Alice could buy their teenage sons gifts for Christmas.

 

When Alice's husband passed away in January, FamiliesCAN assisted her in paying for funeral arrangements.

 

Francisco also arranged for an outside organization to fund the first month's rent on a house, so her sons could remain students in the same high school. FamiliesCAN donated the money for the security deposit.

 

"When somebody gets sick with cancer, all of a sudden things fall apart," Alice said. "it helped my husband to know we were being taken care of."