In 2004, Yvette Griffin was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer, a cancer with fewer treatment options than other breast cancers and which disproportionately affects African Americans, and women who carry the BRCA breast cancer mutation.
Two years earlier, Ms. Griffin had lost her job as a Bear Stearns vice president during a departmental downsizing. She had been temping, but her income was a fraction of her previous salary—and her COBRA had run out.
It was not the life she imagined. “I had been a non-stop workaholic, I had a full life,” says Yvette. “Theater, jazz, travel. I was a size 8 with four-inch heels, hair-down-to-my-waist flying. I dated a bodyguard for someone so famous I cannot say the name. I met interesting people.”
After treatment at a Brooklyn hospital, Yvette went to MSK, where she learned in 2005 that her cancer had recurred. She also had painful fibroids. Her MSK surgical team planned a nine-hour operation: a mastectomy, hysterectomy, and another procedure.
“I couldn’t afford it,” says Yvette. “Then my MSK doctor said, ‘I don’t want to hear that—if I make the appointments you better show up.’” Yvette was referred to an MSK social worker. She learned about the Financial Assistance Program (FAP). Because of her health issues, she was also eligible for disability benefits.
In 2006, Yvette had the surgery. Since she qualified for FAP, her cost of care didn’t cripple her finances. Determined to improve her economic situation, Yvette reupholstered old furniture and sold it. She did custom sewing.
Yvette’s cancer returned two more times in the ensuing years, including a Stage IV malignancy. MSK physicians worked with her to beat it. Today, Yvette celebrates five years of remission. Lymphedema and other health issues are challenges—but have not dampened her iron will.
“FAP helped save me. Sylvia and her people are angels,” says Yvette. “I never thought I would qualify. It’s allowed me to keep my apartment and receive the best cancer care in the world. Without this program, I’m not sure where I would be.”