“This wasn’t a path we sought out. This was a path that sort of found us.”
So says Joanna Fawzy Morales, Esq., CEO and co-founder of Triage Cancer. Ten years ago, she and her sister, Monica Fawzy Bryant, Esq., began to discover harmful gaps in cancer patient advocacy. As a result, the two cancer rights attorneys formed the national nonprofit Triage Cancer to strengthen the voices of those diagnosed with cancer.
“While I was in law school, I worked at a cancer center,” says Morales. “I was fitting patients for mastectomy bras and prostheses after surgery, then billing insurance companies. Claims would often be denied, and I would call and plead the case. I’d say, ‘Well, what about the Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act?’ And then it’d get covered. If you don’t know your rights, many of these systems are set up to walk all over you. It felt inherently unjust.”
A cancer diagnosis is difficult enough without trying to navigate unfamiliar systems. That’s why Triage Cancer aims to arm cancer survivors and their loved ones with the practical and legal information they need so healing is not only accessible, but equitable.
“There’s a lot of opportunity to make sure that people have information about their rights and their options so they can find their best path forward,” explains Morales.
In 2021 alone, Triage Cancer reached over 1 million people through distributed materials, educational events, media resources and navigation programs. The nonprofit serves as a one-stop shop for factual and objective education on crucial aspects of the cancer journey. Topics covered range from disability insurance options and medical marijuana guides to estate planning and housing accommodations during treatment.
One of Triage Cancer’s biggest triumphs is its no-cost single day conferences. These free gatherings, which happen both virtually and face to face, offer an opportunity for the cancer community to come together and learn firsthand about legal and financial tools that can help them thrive.
On Sat., May 21, Triage Cancer held virtual educational sessions that anyone across the country could access. Speakers included Morales and Bryant, with gift bags, games and prizes provided to attendees.
Topics discussed included:
- What are your options for health insurance and how do you pick the plan that’s best for you with the lowest out-of-pocket costs?
- How do you manage medical bills?
- How do you make sure that you have the right documents in place if something were to happen to you?
- What is financial toxicity, and how can you seek assistance?
“A lot of what we talk about at Triage Cancer, we discuss through the lens of a cancer diagnosis,” says Morales. “But it’s really just practical information that everybody should understand, and it certainly becomes more important if someone does have a serious medical condition.”
If you missed the virtual May conference, there’s still time to register for Triage Cancer’s conference in Chicago on Oct. 1, 2022. As Triage Cancer’s only in-person conference for the year, the event presents a unique chance to meet others in the cancer community while simultaneously gaining confidence to practice self-advocacy.
“With these conferences, we hope that cancer survivors are empowered to ask questions. Navigating the health care system can feel overwhelming,” says Morales. “We want to provide some information people don’t think to ask about but is so helpful to them and managing daily life after the diagnosis of a serious medical condition.”
For more information on Triage Cancer, visit triagecancer.org.