Crowdfunding for Cancer Care Is a Touchy Subject

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After a friend sent me a link to her GoFundMe page for her cancer care, I had to think long and hard about how to respond.

cartoon image of blogger and cancer survivor, Bonnie Annis

Recently, I had to make a tough decision when I received a request for money through the popular crowdfunding resource, GoFundMe. One of my old high school friends had reached out through Facebook asking for help paying her cancer-related expenses. While my heart went out to her, I wasn’t in a position to help financially. I’d just come through major surgery of my own and was facing a mountain of medical debt.

I could certainly understand my friend’s fear and trepidation at being able to cover her medical bills, especially since she was widowed and living on a fixed income, but I wasn’t sure the best resource for her was a crowdfunding campaign.

When I first began my battle with cancer, a social worker with the hospital offered me several resources. As she explained there were hardship assistance programs, hospital grants and scholarships, I listened intently. I had no idea how expensive cancer would be.I kept the information she shared with me in my back pocket in case I needed it down the road. Thankfully, my husband had good medical insurance through his company, and I never needed to use any of the resources the social worker shared. I was blessed. I’m sure there are many who don’t have that option.

Crowdfunding is a popular way to raise money for unexpected events and social media can help get word out quickly. I’ve seen all sorts of GoFundMe requests, some legit and others questionable. 

I imagine close friends and family are more than happy to help a loved one in dire straits and being able to contribute through crowdfunding isn’t out of the normal for them.But others may find these requests off putting. They may feel insulted at being asked to help pay for someone’s bills when they have enough of their own.

My friend’s GoFundMe goal was set to raise $5,000. She indicated the funds raised would be used to help cover the cost of gas as she traveled back and forth to treatments and also for her groceries. 

May people are happy to give 5, 10 or even 20 dollars to GoFundMe requests. Those small amounts are usually drops in the bucket. Some find these offerings make them feel like they’ve done a good deed while others ignore the fundraisers and don’t give them a second thought.

When I choose to give to a crowd funding campaign, I always choose to remain anonymous. I don’t want accolades for my participation, but some enjoy the notoriety. They enjoy seeing their name listed with the amount given beside it.

Crowdfunding is a touchy subject.

If you’ve been extended an invitation to contribute to a GoFundMe campaign, my advice would be to weigh your decision carefully. Perhaps you’d consider how it would feel if you were in the position of needing help and had no other options, do you think you’d be desperate enough to ask others for financial help? It’s hard to know how one would respond until in that type of situation.

I can’t judge my friend for her choice to use crowdfunding, but I can choose whether or not I participate. If I feel the need to help, I’d much rather send a gift card or personal check through the mail than submit a donation online. 

My friend is about to face her second chemo treatment. She’ll have a total of six, and then face radiation. She has a long road ahead. I’ve researched other financial resources for her and have given her the information. Regarding medical costs, cancer treatment and care can become astronomical, but I’ve learned hospitals are normally willing to accept monthly payments.

Most of the GoFundMe campaigns I’ve seen haven’t met their goals and those unmet goals were probably devastating to the campaign owner. But there have been a few that have exceeded their requests – those are usually ones that fall under tragic circumstances like those needing help paying for a funeral or severe automobile accidents.

There are other avenues for financial assistance for cancer care and many are listed on this website. I hope my friend’s needs will be met and I’ll be closely monitoring her journey for ways I can assist. I may not be able to give financially, but I can certainly give my time and other resources.


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