Marlborough-based nonprofit offers statewide support for those affected by cancer

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By Lori Berkey, Contributing Writer

Mary Lou Woodford (center), co-founder of the Marlborough-based nonprofit Cancer1Source, gathers with other agency supporters during their annual fashion fundraiser for the organization last year.
Photo/submitted

Marlborough – Ten years ago a group of oncology nurses sat down to figure out how to address the unmet needs they were witnessing every day among those affect by cancer. They decided to form a nonprofit organization, Cancer1 Source, to help bridge the gap. The agency they founded is situated on Cedar Hill Road in Marlborough, with the work they do helping people statewide.

Mary Lou Woodford, one of the organization’s founders, recalled that she and the other founders identified things the cancer patients and their families needed to be successful in their treatment plan that were not being provided. Many of the services they lacked were not covered by traditional insurance.

“As a group of oncology nurses,” Woodford said, “we hoped to make a difference by working with other nonprofits that help cancer patients. Our goal was to create one source where patients could go to access whatever they needed. This was our primary motivation for starting Cancer1Source.”

The mission of Cancer1Source is “to advocate and provide support for the prevention, early detection, diagnosis, treatment and survivorship of cancer through patient assistance, education and research.”

The Cancer1Source team has organized and implemented numerous programs since its establishment. One service they started is the provision of breast prosthetics for women who have had a mastectomy and are unable to afford implants. They also set up an arrangement for patients to access relevant and current cancer information and tools for cancer patients, families, and caregivers.

“One of our most rewarding initiatives has been our cancer genetic testing program,” Woodford said. “Prior to our program, low-income women in Massachusetts did not have access to cancer genetic testing.”

Cancer1Source has been offering genetic testing to anyone in Massachusetts who qualifies since the organization launched in 2009. To date, Cancer1Source has provided over $1 million in cancer genetic testing to state residents.

Woodford gave an example of how one family was helped by this service. A woman, she said, was diagnosed with breast cancer many years ago, and therefore did not have genetic testing. Her daughter and granddaughter wanted to know if they were carriers of the genetic mutation that puts them at greater risk for breast cancer. However, since the patient did not need this test for treatment, the testing is not covered by Medicare. The daughter could not have afforded the testing without the help of Cancer1Source.

According to Woodford, one of the agency’s key accomplishments is gaining approval from the Office of the Inspector General in the federal government to provide co-pay assistance. Helping people with services they may not be able to otherwise afford is what Woodford said drives her continued involvement with the organization.

As for the organization’s goals for the future, Woodford said she aspires “to continue helping residents of Massachusetts manage their cancer journey the best we can.”

Cancer1Source relies on donations and volunteers to provide all of their services. For more information, to donate or inquire about volunteer opportunities, visit the organization’s website, www.cancer1source.org.