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Cancer patient receives a 'helping hand' through years of treatment

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By Kortney Scroger

After weeks of feeling sick, Kari Newton came to the MultiCare Allenmore Hospital emergency department, where she discovered she had stage 4 cancer in both her liver and colon.

“I was scared,” Kari says. “They were asking the weirdest questions. I didn’t know what to think. But when they told me my cancer was stage 4, I thought, ‘How long do I have?’”

Kari immediately began chemotherapy treatment and had her first surgery, a liver resection, in December 2012. She had another surgery on her colon in 2013.

Because of the intensity of the treatment, Kari had to leave her job as a childcare provider and the medical bills started to add up fast. With two young children at home, she was struggling to make ends meet. It was around that time when she was introduced to Betsy Allen, an oncology social worker at MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital.

“The first time I met Betsy, she helped connect me to resources for cancer patients, including Helping Hands,” Kari explains.

Helping Hands is a fund supported by community donors and MultiCare employees. Social workers, such as Betsy, identify patients in need and use the funds to help remove barriers that impact a patient's ability to heal, or a family's ability to support their loved one.

“Helping Hands helps families so they don’t have to decide between food and medication,” Betsy says. “I’ve personally experienced how offering this support can change patient outcomes. It makes my job doable.”

helping-hands-story-kari-newton_l.jpgFor Kari, getting assistance through Helping Hands meant that she could pay her utility bills, medical bills and prescriptions. Since she lives in Spanaway and was receiving treatment in Tacoma multiple times a week, it also provided her with grocery and gas gift cards.

“Assistance from Helping Hands helped tremendously,” Kari says. “Things like gas cards helped me get to the hospital. Or if I didn’t have a meal, the grocery cards allowed me to get food for the family for a couple days. Without Helping Hands, I would be homeless.”

In 2018, Kari was one of 8,375 MultiCare patients who benefited from Helping Hands. She and her family are extremely grateful for this generosity.

“Thank you to everyone who has given,” Kari says. “You don’t know how much it means to all of us — especially my family. I can imagine there are people you are helping out there who are in the same boat as me or worse, so please continue to give. It helps.”

Now, seven years after her diagnosis, Kari is still undergoing treatment. She kept to herself when she first began chemotherapy, but now she says it’s so much nicer to share her experience with others.

“You help each other as much as you can,” Kari explains. “I am happy to share more about the resources others can get access to. People come to me for advice because I’ve been going through this for so long, and I am happy to connect them.”

Her advice for patients in similar situations is simple: stay positive.

“Everyone’s story is different,” Kari says. “You can have the same cancer but the outcome could be way different. Stay positive as much as you can. You know that the cancer is there, but I try to make every day count. Doing things as a family, just living and making the most of it.”


You can support patients like Kari by donating to the Helping Hands fund. 

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