Through furry friends and financial assistance, Pawsitively 4 Pink helps underserved women with breast cancer in Massachusetts. Big Y has supported this nonprofit organization through its Community Bag Program.
Tell us about Pawsitively 4 Pink.
Pawsitively 4 Pink was founded in 2018. It began as a reaction to witnessing several people in my inner circle battle metastatic breast cancer diagnoses with very limited financial resources to turn to. Having been actively involved in breast cancer awareness for many years and walking in both the Susan Komen Walk and Avon Breast Cancer Walk several times, it just felt like the natural path for me to found the organization.
What services do you provide to the community?
Pawsitively 4 Pink financially assists low-income women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer in Massachusetts, with a specific focus on Worcester County since that is where I am from. Our goal is to be able to help all of the East Coast eventually. Many people don’t realize that four of the five New England states have some of the highest diagnosis rates of breast cancer in the country. Having been in touch with several people in those other states, I have found that fewer resources are offered there than in Massachusetts. My goal is to expand geographically to help these areas.
What sets you apart from other nonprofit organizations in your community?
Most people don’t know that when a woman applies for a typical grant, she has to be actively involved in traditional treatment. Unlike other organizations, Pawsitively 4 Pink will assist women if they choose holistic or conventional therapy.
We help up to six months out of therapy because we want the women to start on the right foot, not inundated with debt.
Second, we will help women up to six months out of therapy. There is no other organization that I know of that will help a woman if she has ended treatment. As we all know, numerous bills come in after a woman has finished treatment. We help up to six months out of therapy because we want the women to start on the right foot, not inundated with debt.
The third way we’re different is the paw! We will take a shelter dog, have it trained as an emotional support dog, and then place it with a woman and her family. The other element we are working on is training therapy dogs to be placed with local families. The thought here is to have those families commit to an hour a month to bring the therapy dog to the women we work with and oncology units.
Please tell us a story that illustrates the good work of your organization.
We have plenty of those, but one that always stands out is a woman we ended with about four months ago. Bitadni came to us after being diagnosed with stage four breast cancer. She and her husband ran a thriving daycare for 15 to 18 years. However, once diagnosed, her doctors suggested she close her daycare because of all the germs that would come in with the little kids. Once they did that, both their incomes disappeared. Many people think low income is something other than what it is. Here are two people who were not low-income, but in one minute, all that changed.
After closing their daycare, Bitadni and her husband reached out to Pawsitively 4 Pink through a social worker at UMass, and, of course, they qualified. After hearing their story, we paid Bitadni and her husband’s mortgage for three years.
The minimum we help is three or four months, and there isn’t an organization out there dealing with breast cancer that has such a significant impact on daily living.
Her diagnosis then went from worse to worse as her metastatic breast cancer spread to her pancreas, resulting in stage four pancreatic cancer. She ended up going to Boston, which has one of the only hospitals with a radiation machine specific to pancreatic cancer. After being given a 7% chance of surviving, Bitadni is now in remission.
Her case is so extraordinary that UMass wants to study her. Her faith got her through it all; she truly is such a believer. She would also say that our help and the fact that she didn’t have to worry about a place to live certainly eased the stress in her life.
Bitadni’s story is just one of many. All the women we work with appreciate the help we give. It’s so impactful. The minimum we help is three or four months, and there isn’t an organization out there dealing with breast cancer that has such a significant impact on daily living.
What is your most outstanding achievement or contribution to the community?
Just providing the financial services that we do. Other than Pawsitively 4 Pink, there are no financial resources for women with breast cancer in Worcester County. There are plenty of organizations that offer different types of support for women with breast cancer, but sadly, not financially. Having this organization and having it survive both Covid and the harsh economic times we’re in is an accomplishment in and of itself. We had only been around for four months when Covid hit for two and a half years. Now, we are in a time where people are very conservative about their money. So, the fact that we’re here is quite impressive.
What do you want people to know about Pawsitively 4 Pink?
The most important thing is the level of impact we have on women’s lives. We are unique in our mission to financially assist these women directly at a life-changing level for many.
We are unique in our mission to financially assist these women directly at a life-changing level for many.
I want people to understand that we can only survive with the community’s support. Their dollar is going directly to women in their community. 99% of the women who qualify for our assistance need help with housing and food. Pawsitively 4 Pink wants to alleviate the financial stress that a woman often feels about rent and food while undergoing treatment. One should never have to worry about not having housing or food, particularly when going through a traumatizing diagnosis.
How will you use funds received from the Big Y Community Bag Program?
Oh, that’s easy. The money will go directly to the women we are servicing. Again, typically, the money that comes to us goes to women’s housing since that is what they are fearful of losing. But, whether it’s gift cards for food, gas, or parking passes, the majority of our funds will directly support our women.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
We are so appreciative and thankful that Big Y reached out to us. Big Y is a community store, and we frequent it often. Community partnerships are critical to Pawsitively 4 Pink, and I plan to continue strengthening this relationship.
Michelle Power is Founder of Pawsitively 4 Pink.
Published November 22, 2023.