For Jennifer Cooper, the Laura W. Bush Institute for Women’s Health (LWBIWH) and Access to Breast Care for West Texas in the Concho Valley (ABC4WT-CV) made all the difference on one of the most frightening days of her life.

“I was in shock,” she said, remembering the day she was diagnosed with breast cancer. “I thought to myself, ‘My husband is a teacher, I’m a stay-at-home mom; how are we going to afford me going through cancer?’ And then, someone said that I needed to get in touch with the Laura Bush Institute.”

ABC4WT-CV is a grant funded program developed by the Laura W. Bush Institute for Women’s Health (LWBIWH) that links West Texas women age 40 and over (and 39 and under if symptomatic) to available resources for breast cancer prevention and screening,  including mammograms, breast exams, biopsies, transportation, and other assistance.

The program was designed to cover women in the 14 counties in the Concho Valley who, like Cooper, fall through the “donut hole”—that is, they don’t qualify for other programs but still need financial assistance for breast cancer screening and treatment.

“This is a program that helps women,” said Shayla Grelle, Program and Clinical Manager of ABC4WT-CV. “It saves lives.”

The program has assisted 728 women to date, and continues to be a highly utilized resource for women in the community. Grelle believes that without this program, many cases of breast cancer would go undiagnosed and untreated.

“In the last two years, we have had sixteen diagnoses,” said Grelle. “How many women wouldn’t know they were at risk if they weren’t in our program?”

While ABC4WT-CV helps women afford screening and diagnostic testing, the LWBIWH Breast Cancer Treatment Fund steps in to provide local women with financial assistance for breast cancer treatment after a positive diagnosis. 100% of the money raised for the fund stays in the community to assist local women fighting cancer.

Currently, the fund provides women diagnosed with breast cancer with a down payment, though the eventual goal is to build up the fund so it can cover surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation for women in need. According to Grelle, helping these women is a priority for the community.

“Cancer isn’t picky,” said Grelle, who speaks from personal experience; her close friend was diagnosed with the disease in 1997, and shortly thereafter, Grelle’s mother was diagnosed as well. “It affects people from all walks of life.”

However, the community can fight back—and ABC4WT-CV and the Breast Cancer Treatment Fund give people the opportunity to do just that. “If we can grow this treatment fund, it’s a win-win for the whole community,” said Grelle. “It can save a mom, a daughter, a grandmother, a friend.”

The Breast Cancer Treatment Fund is entirely supported by donations from the community. According to Dr. Linda Ross, Regional Director of the Laura W. Bush Institute for Women’s Health, this fund is a true example of people stepping up to support the health of women in their community.

“The effect that a program like this can have on a community is profound,” said Dr. Ross. “The success of this program is measured in lives saved.”

To find out if you or a loved one are eligible for assistance from ABC4WT-CV, call (325) 942-2531 or visit http://www.abc4wt.org for more information.

If you are interested in making a donation to the LWBIWH Breast Cancer Treatment Fund, please call (325) 486-6478 or send a check to the Laura W. Bush Institute for Women’s Health, 5301 Knickerbocker Rd. Suite 200, San Angelo, TX 76904. Please designate the check by writing “Breast Cancer Treatment Fund” on the memo line.