The Care Project in Riverside helps breast cancer patients ‘fill in the gaps’
December 15th, 2023
By Greg Archer | Contributing Columnist
The Care Project, Inc. in Riverside will reach its 10-year anniversary in fall 2024, but there’s already a great deal to celebrate. The nonprofit organization rose from humble beginnings to emotionally and financially support female and male breast cancer patients.
It has succeeded in those efforts, garnering praise for its dedication to helping area residents in need.
“I initially ran it during my lunch hour, before work, and after work,” said founder and president Carrie Madrid, who launched the organization with her friend, Christina Gonzalez, nearly 10 years ago. “After my own diagnosis in 2012, I googled ‘breast cancer support,’ and one place came up, which was, of course, the Pink Ribbon Place, the original breast cancer resource center.”
However, at that time, the organization was in transition and finding assistance became cumbersome. Luckily, Madrid, a single mother, had family support. Her father stepped up and helped with co-pays and somehow, she began moving through a very challenging life event.
The Care Project, Inc.’s work includes events like Meet the Doctors sessions. (Courtesy of The Care Project, Inc.)
“I lived check to check, and co-pays weren’t in my budget,” she recalled. “Then I was sitting in the chemo chair, and I would make friends and talk to everybody. I found that some patients were choosing between a $100 copay for chemo or feeding their teenagers. Some of them were forgoing treatment for a week or two weeks, which could really cost them their life. And I thought, ‘Oh my God, somebody’s got to do something. Why not us?’
“Christina and I were both struggling single moms and we thought if we can pay our bills, we can help other people,” she said. “We didn’t know how we were going to do it, but we just set out to do it.”
Thanks to the help of family members who were IT savvy and others eager to support the cause, a website was born, and things took off. The staff is lean — mostly Madrid and Gonzalez — but the duo has benefitted by the support of board members and others behind-the-scene.
In addition to emotional support and mentoring for ailing individuals, The Care Project strives to fill in the gaps when other resources fall short. To that end, it assists with such things as grants for utility bills, rental assistance, co-pays, gift cards for groceries and household items, and compression sleeves by LympheDIVAS. Uber, Lyft and fuel cards filter into the mix to assist with transportation.
Recently, The Care Project received a Women’s Giving Fund grant through the Inland Empire Community Foundation. The funds will assist the nonprofit’s new Death Doula Services, which supports terminally ill patients who have been given a diagnosis or a prognosis of having six months or less to live.
“We really walk beside them and help them prepare to die,” Madrid said, noting that the care may vary from being at home or in the hospital. “Maybe they ask, ‘Do I have all my affairs in order? Who do I want to be there with me at the end, who do I not want there by any, you know, any means?’
“We help with all the things that in society we don’t think about,” she said. “It’s often taboo to talk about death and dying, but the fact is we’re all going to die, and a lot of cancer patients don’t survive. So why not give people that companionship? This new service is not provided or paid for by insurance. It’s not something that hospice does. It’s not something that the hospitals can do. We sort of fill in the gaps.”
The care, which is free to the organization’s clients, is designed to provide comfort for individuals and respite for families.
“The families sitting bedside with them may need to go take a shower or have a nap,” Madrid said. “Do they need to go to the grocery store? I will sit with that patient.”
She goes on to say that moving forward, The Care Project would like area residents population to know more about its Men 2 program, which offers financial assistance and care to men battling male breast cancer. The genesis of the program arose when the husband of one of Madrid’s friends was diagnosed with breast cancer and died four months later.
“The Care Project has always provided emotional and financial support to men as well as women since the inception, but we don’t get a lot of men who reach out,” Madrid said. “We decided to take the Men 2 program nationwide. We already have more than $7,000 in this fund since Dec. 1 because people are donating in the honor of somebody or because their son, their brother or their father was diagnosed. It’s a new program but it’s already taken off.”