It is a story heard all too often today: A woman with young children is diagnosed with breast cancer, and she must find ways to manage her medical treatments while also tending to the demands of family life.
Karen Dove Cabral was one such woman, who, tragically, lost her battle with the disease in 2007. However, her legacy continues through her two children and the foundation that bears her name and is the direct result of her vision of helping young mothers with financial resources and support during breast cancer treatment.
“She kept saying, ‘Mom, we need to do something,’” says Kathleen Dove, Karen’s mother and executive director of the Karen Dove Cabral Foundation. Dove operates the organization along with Karen’s husband, Edward Cabral. “She said, ‘There are all these women out there just like me who are young and who are managing their breast cancer treatments, and they don’t have the financial resources and emotional support from family around them to support them when they go in for treatment.’ She was the inspiration. The foundation would not have started without her planting the seeds and recognizing this need.”
Karen was diagnosed with breast cancer when her first son was only 11 months old, and the cancer returned while she was pregnant with her second son. Karen considered herself fortunate to have family who helped out wherever they could, tending to her while recovering from surgery, and taking care of her young children while she received chemotherapy. She knew others didn’t have the same support network.
The Karen Dove Cabral Foundation was thus born in 2008 and has since helped as many as 60 women battling breast cancer. The organization receives patient referrals from NorthShore University HealthSystem Kellogg Cancer Center, where a committee identifies patients needing the support. The assistance comes in the form of coverage of childcare, transportation and lodging while undergoing treatment, and non-covered medical expenses such as acupuncture treatments that help combat the side effects of chemotherapy. The foundation has even paid for summer camp for children of mothers battling the disease.
Hillary Bartoli, 44, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013, when she had four children under the age of 10 years old, and limited financial resources. She was lucky to have her mother who was able to take care of her for five weeks after her bilateral mastectomy, but she scrambled to find childcare for her children while her husband was at work. The Karen Dove Cabral Foundation, through a referral from Bartoli’s health counselor and nurse navigator at NorthShore, stepped in to cover the costs of childcare.
“To be able to have someone to take care of my children and not have to worry … I can’t even put words to it; it was such a huge help,” Bartoli says. “My mom was more at ease too because it was a lot for her.”
Women undergoing medical treatment for breast cancer need three types of support: informational, emotional and practical, according to the Susan G. Komen organization, the largest and best-funded breast cancer organization in the U.S. While the informational support typically comes from medical providers, and the emotional support from family and friends, it’s the practical help that can often cause stress and anxiety for patients.
“When a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, it affects every aspect of their lives,” says Dr. James Ward, MD. “Speaking with my patients, they tell me that these benefits [from the foundation] have helped reduce stress for them and helped them continue to live full lives with their families outside of the clinic.”
On Sunday, Oct. 16, the foundation will hold its annual Butterfly Benefit, featuring farm-to-table food, a kitchen event for kids, a raffle and silent and live auction, and live music. Tickets are $65 for adults and $25 for children. In addition to the annual fundraising campaign, the foundation has received grants from NorthShore Health and Genentech, a member of the Roche Group. Each spring, Ed Cabral holds donation-matching fundraisers at Allstate Insurance, where he is employed. The family is hopeful that the funds will continue to increase, enabling the foundation to help even more women.
“Karen was able to be present and live each day to the fullest,” Kathleen Dove says. “She wanted that for other women.”
To register for the Butterfly Benefit, click here.
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