Chemo Comfort Kits - Empowering Cancer Patients One Kit at a Time

Chemo Comfort provides cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy with kits of products to manage the side effects of treatment. These products help patients manage nausea, mouth sores and hair loss, among other things. Approximately 80% of kits distributed in 2009 were donated to low-income patients through partner cancer organizations.

About You

Organization: Chemo Comfort Visit websitemore ↓↑ hide↑ hide

Section 1: You

First Name

Anne Marie

Last Name

Paolucci

Organization

Chemo Comfort

Country

United States, NY

Section 2: Your Organization

Organization Name

Chemo Comfort

Organization Website

Organization Phone

212-675-3744

Organization Address

154 Christopher St. #3C

Is your organization a

Non‐profit/NGO/citizen sector organization

Organization Country

United States, NY

Your idea

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Name Your Project

Chemo Comfort Kits - Empowering Cancer Patients One Kit at a Time

Country and state your work focuses on

United States, NY

Describe Your Idea

Chemo Comfort provides cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy with kits of products to manage the side effects of treatment. These products help patients manage nausea, mouth sores and hair loss, among other things. Approximately 80% of kits distributed in 2009 were donated to low-income patients through partner cancer organizations.

Innovation

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What makes your idea unique?

Chemo Comfort, a volunteer-run organization, was born from the founder’s desire to share knowledge acquired while undergoing treatment for breast cancer. A great many cancer programs are information based. Chemo Comfort is more personal, not overwhelming patients with lists of resources, but empowering patients with ways to help themselves. Chemo Comfort kits provide practical tools - helping patients to manage side effects and providing things that can be used daily, such as toothpaste.

Chemo Comfort kits make the treatment experience easier by giving patients the tools to cope with day-to-day needs from the beginning. As they begin the daunting chemotherapy process, kit recipients are already equipped with the right toothpaste and effective, nausea-reducing teas They do not need to spend time and effort investigating products or even go without them due to financial constraints.

Starting chemotherapy is a frightening experience. Buying the right toothpaste and toothbrush is pretty far down on the list of priorities. Yet, having the right products is invaluable. With Chemo Comfort kits, this isn’t something a patient finds out once mouth sores have made it painful to brush his or her teeth. By providing these kits, we are saying to patients “Here is a box of tools put together by someone who’s been there. Know that you are not alone and these tools will help you take care of yourself during this difficult journey.”

Do you have a patent for this idea?

Impact

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This Entry is about (Issues)

What impact have you had?

Over 1000 cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy have received Chemo Comfort kits.
The tone of the kits is from a cancer survivor to someone who is about to undergo this experience. This support is unique and is valued by kit recipients. This theme is reflected in a statement made by a Cancer Support Team RN:

“I wish you could have been with me when I delivered your beautiful Chemo Comfort kit to an elderly patient undergoing concurrent chemo and radiation treatments. The way her face lit up was wonderful to watch. This is a very poor lady with few luxuries that provide comfort and pleasure. Your present gave her both, along with the message that we understand how difficult this is for her and support her efforts.”

This feedback was provided by a patient who received a free kit through our partnership with CancerCare:
“I would like to express my deep gratitude for your gift presented me through CancerCare. At 64 years of age, unemployed and on social security, with a diagnosis of stage IIB cancer of the left breast, life appeared very bleak. When I received your package I felt that I could continue with my treatments and the process would be less stressful. It is through a person such as yourself that one regains the courage to continue living.”

Problem

A newly diagnosed patient is fragile and needs to conserve his or her strength (mental and physical) for doctors’ appointments, medical tests and fighting with insurance companies. Energy shouldn’t go to learning which toothpaste will be needed to deal with mouth sores. When given a Chemo Comfort kit, patients don’t have to figure out these practical things - everything they need is handed to them. So much is out of one’s control as a cancer patient that to be able to take positive, comforting measures for oneself, however small, is critical to easing the stresses of treatment.

Actions

We add new partners regularly. Chemo Comfort currently has five partner organizations to distribute kits to low-income cancer patients. These organizations serve primarily the five boroughs of New York City and Lower Westchester County. Our partner organizations have found kits to be useful in educating patients about the side effects of chemotherapy. By going through kits with patients, nurses and social workers are able to discuss the side effects of treatment and how to cope with them, thus helping to make the experience less frightening and more manageable.

We have applied for and received a Google AdWords grant.

We have recently moved into an office (until June 2009, Chemo Comfort was run from the founders’ apartment).

We are continuing to expand our mailing list (primarily through our annual raffle and other events) and look for additional funding. Chemo Comfort has a grant committee that is actively working on this.

Results

Over 1000 cancer patients have received Chemo Comfort kits.

New partner organizations enable us to reach other populations of low-income cancer patients. However, we are presently focused on meeting the increased need of our current partners, as they are experiencing increased demand for their services.

Our Google grant will increase our web presence. This will expand our program nationally in a more aggressive manner. The income generated from increased distribution of gift kits will help fund our subsidized patient kits as well as our donated kits.

Our office has enabled us to utilize our volunteers much more effectively. As we are an all volunteer run organization, this increase in volunteer hours has helped Chemo Comfort run more efficiently.

Our ever-increasing mailing list and grant applications should increase our funding. At the least, it will help us to maintain funding during these uncertain times.

What will it take for your project to be successful over the next three years? Please address each year separately, if possible.

Chemo Comfort has grown steadily and responsibly over the past four years. Future success will mean an increase in partnerships as well as an increase in distribution of gift kits and subsidized patient kits nationally.

To achieve success, we need to have steady revenue (which increased gift kit distribution will help provide) and increased awareness of our programs. In 2010, increased web presence generated by our Google AdWords grant will help this. When we are comfortable meeting growth goals set for 2010, we will increase our web presence (and therefore our kit distribution) in the following years. Increasing board membership in the next three years is also planned.

We have a good track record of sustainable growth. Our programs are already successful; we just need to continue to scale up the organization, enabling new partnerships, greater numbers to be served and program longevity.

What would prevent your project from being a success?

Not having adequate funds and talent (volunteer or staffed) to expand will prevent further success. It will also allow copycat organizations to become better known than we are, making us appear to be the follower instead of the leader in developing kits for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.

How many people will your project serve annually?

101‐1000

What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

Less than $50

Does your project seek to have an impact on public policy?

Sustainability

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What stage is your project in?

Operating for 1‐5 years

In what country?

United States, NY

Is your initiative connected to an established organization?

If yes, provide organization name.

How long has this organization been operating?

1‐5 years

Does your organization have a Board of Directors or an Advisory Board?

Yes

Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with NGOs?

No

Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with businesses?

Yes

Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with government?

No

Please tell us more about how these partnerships are critical to the success of your innovation.

We have found that partnering with other cancer organizations is an efficient and cost-effective way to identify those who are financially challenged. These other organizations are already serving this population and by working with them we eliminate the need for Chemo Comfort to screen individual patients’ finances. Through social workers and registered nurses at these partner organizations, kits are distributed to low-income cancer patients. Our partner organizations have found kits to be useful in educating patients about the side effects of chemotherapy. By going through kits with patients, nurses and social workers are able to discuss the side effects of treatment and how to cope with them, thus helping to make the experience less frightening and more manageable.

Businesses, such as Ricola and Biotene (GlaxoSmithKline), donate product to us for our kits.
Other businesses donate products for our annual spring raffle.

What are the three most important actions needed to grow your initiative or organization?

1) Funding – As a non-profit organization, a great deal of time and effort go into fundraising. We would love to be able to devote more of this time and energy to expanding our programs

2) Publicity – We need increased awareness of our programs. Development of our gift kit program helps us raise funds and provides a practical gift for people with friends and family undergoing cancer treatment who want to send something they know will help. PR will also help with our two other programs – cancer patients nationwide will be aware that they can receive a subsidized Chemo Comfort kit at a minimal donation and potential partner organizations will be eager to work with us.

3) Staffing – We need to continue to develop our volunteer talent pool. Volunteers with specific development and management tools need to be further cultivated.

The Story

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What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

In 2001 and again in 2003, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Each time I went through almost a year of treatment, which included surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Chemotherapy was the most difficult part of treatment for me. Bit by bit, I found ways to cope with the various side effects, I didn’t realize how valuable this was until a friend was diagnosed with breast cancer. Before she began chemotherapy, I gave her a “chemo starter kit” filled with products and information I had discovered during my odyssey. She and her family were thrilled with the kit and I realized the significance of sharing what I had learned. Cancer is a daunting thing to go through. I am thrilled that I am able to help others because of my experience.

Tell us about the social innovator behind this idea.

Anne Marie Paolucci is the Founder and President of Chemo Comfort. Ms. Paolucci is a graduate of Northwestern University. For 18 years, she worked as a theatrical stage manager. She has stage managed shows on and off-Broadway, as well as operas, dance and fashion shows. She has managed theatrical companies that number from five to two hundred and have been fortunate to have worked with Eli Wallach, Anne Jackson, Julie Harris, Kathy Bates, Gary Sinise, John Mahoney, and Cynthia Nixon among others. She has stage managed productions for the New York City Opera National Company, the Metropolitan Opera Guild, Circle Repertory Company, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, the New York Shakespeare Festival and the Martha Graham Dance Ensemble, as well as for many others.

Chemo Comfort is based on Ms. Paolucci’s experiences as a breast cancer patient. She directs this program and provides day to day administration on a voluntary part time basis. In September 2007, she received a Certificate of Appreciation from CancerCare, one of Chemo Comfort’s partner organizations. She was a 2008 semi-finalist in L’Oreal’s Women of Worth competition. She won a first prize in Five Rivers Winery’s 2009 Save a Goddess competition for cancer survivors. Both she and her mother are two-time cancer survivors. At this writing, her mother is battling cancer for the third time.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Email from Changemakers

If through another, please provide the name of the organization or company

50 words or fewer

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233 weeks ago Tyler Ahn said: Thank you for that insight! I really love that concept, I shall make sure to keep it in mind! Again, watch for the Patient ... about this Competition Entry. - read more >
234 weeks ago Anne Marie Paolucci updated this Competition Entry.
234 weeks ago Anne Marie Paolucci said: We feel very strongly that the little things can be very empowering. Cancer diagnosis is completely overwhelming. It is a time when you ... about this Competition Entry. - read more >
234 weeks ago Tyler Ahn said: Hi Anne, We've been working furiously getting ready for our late June launch of Patient Empowerment competition with Amgen. I hope ... about this Competition Entry. - read more >
234 weeks ago Tyler Ahn said: Hi Anne Marie, I hope you keep on with Changemakers! We have been working hard at preparing to launch our competition on Patient ... about this Competition Entry. - read more >
235 weeks ago Anne Marie Paolucci updated this Competition Entry.
235 weeks ago Anne Marie Paolucci said: Thanks Alexis. I'll check it out! about this Competition Entry. - read more >
235 weeks ago Alexis Ditkowsky said: Hi Anne Marie, You might want to get in touch with Luana at You Can Thrive (http://www.changemakers.com/en-us/node/69977) since you are ... about this Competition Entry. - read more >
235 weeks ago Anne Marie Paolucci updated this Competition Entry.
235 weeks ago Anne Marie Paolucci updated this Competition Entry.