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A Personal Mission: Help for Patients with Rare Cancer

The Sarcoma-Oma Foundation helps people with medical travel expenses and access to resources. (RFBSIP/Adobe Stock)
The Sarcoma-Oma Foundation helps people with medical travel expenses and access to resources. (RFBSIP/Adobe Stock)
January 31, 2020

NEW YORK - People diagnosed with sarcoma, a rare form of cancer, may have to travel considerable distances to get the best medical treatment - and now, help is available to meet those travel expenses.

Being diagnosed with sarcoma can be frightening and finding treatment may be a daunting task, with only a handful of major sarcoma treatment facilities, like the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

Gary Wiener knows this only too well. In 2015, he lost his wife Linda to Liposarcoma. He found, when it comes to quality care, there is strength in numbers.

"The more physicians, the more researchers, the more collaboration, the more state-of-the-art care," says Wiener. "But not everybody lives close to a facility of that description."

So, Wiener founded the Sarcoma-Oma Foundation to reimburse the travel expenses of patients who need help getting to treatment.

Applications are on the foundation's website at Sarcoma-Oma.org. Sarcoma is a group of cancers that grow in bones and connective tissue.

Oma is the Dutch word for grandmother, Linda Wiener's favorite role in life. Wiener says when his wife was fighting cancer, they had the means to get to the best medical facilities - but he saw many people who did not.

"A lot of people have zero income when they're going through this," says Wiener. "You know, if they don't have a significant other who's bringing in money, sarcoma can really make it so that you cannot work."

He adds the foundation reviews applications twice a year, there are no deadlines and they try to respond as quickly as possible.

Wiener points out that the foundation's website does more than help with medical travel expenses. It also has a page devoted to what patients might consider doing the day they're diagnosed.

"This gives you tips on things you could do to speed up your process of getting care, and making you feel a little better about the treatment you're getting," says Wiener.

There are about 12,000 cases of sarcoma diagnosed each year, and making it possible to get to a treatment facility is a critical step in patient care.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY