'Bust' fund-raiser eases cancer costs

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When Carolyn Arithson volunteered for the Yampa Valley Breast Cancer Awareness Project, she never thought she would be among its beneficiaries.

Arithson was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1997. As a breast cancer survivor, she was well aware of the financial needs that came with the battle and became a committee member a few years later.

Arithson was diagnosed with breast cancer again in 2003 and went through chemotherapy and surgery. She was among the many women in Routt and Moffat counties who received money from the organization to help ease the financial burden.

"It just surprised me -- that the money is there, and it is for anybody who needs it," Arithson said.

Arithson has health insurance, but expenses add up in other ways. Money from the organization helped cover her travel expenses to and from Denver. Last year, she made 26 trips to Denver for chemotherapy, doctor appointments and surgery.

"There's a lot of expenses the insurance companies don't take care of," Arithson said.

Last October, the Yampa Valley Breast Cancer Awareness Project held its second annual Bust of Steamboat fund-raiser. By auctioning off elaborately decorated bras, the committee raised $21,000.

All the money generated from the fund-raiser stays in the community and is used to prevent breast cancer and help those who have it.

Six months after the fund-raiser, founder Debbie Curd said, the committee wants to get the word out that money is available for those unable to afford mammograms or to assist those diagnosed with breast cancer.

"If you were told you should have mammograms, and you don't have money, there is funds to pay for it," Curd said. "Don't wait, don't put it off."

The money also is used for those fighting breast cancer. Those in the community diagnosed with breast cancer are directed to the Visiting Nurse Association's oncology nurse Jan Fritz, who then helps distribute the money raised by the Bust of Steamboat project.

Women can be given up to $1,500 per case, and special requests can be made to the committee for more, Curd said.

"If you know of someone (with breast cancer) tell them to go to the VNA and apply for funds," Curd said.

Some of the money is used for women to offset the costs of gas, hotels and child care when they travel to Denver for appointments or treatments.

Some money was used to help purchase a pair of glasses for a woman who broke hers while recovering from breast cancer and could not afford a new pair. Money also has gone to help a mother of three pay for child care as she undergoes treatment.

When Deb Sherman-Hurst received a Christmas card last year, it contained funds from the organization to help cover her travel expenses to Denver. The closest radiation treatment in the area is in Vail.

Sherman-Hurst, who was diagnosed more than a year ago, made 30 trips to Denver as she went through five weeks of radiation and surgery.

"Radiation was the easiest part of the whole thing," Sherman-Hurst said of her recovery. "To get help with expenses was wonderful. To get that at Christmas in a Christmas card, it was a total surprise."

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