21st Century Oncology’s C.A.R.E. program has been dedicated to helping cancer patients since its humble beginnings in 1986. Starting with offering gas cards in 2007 for patients in need, they have now offered more than $350,000 to almost 5,000 patients in 35 states. They have provided groceries, transportation, medical supplies, baby-sitting, and even temporary housing to those cancer patients in financial need. With the dedication and team work that they exhibit, here is a story of a blessed individual who is grateful that they were there to help.

Hard Times Hit Home

Keith Mirabal, is a kind, 54 year old man who was diagnosed with tongue cancer. This came after losing his wife to leukemia when his son, Ridge, who is now a senior at North Port High School, was in the 5th grade. Keith lives on $1002.00 a month in Social Security and is helped by his son, a responsible teen, who works part time while going to school to balance out the bills.

This has been a difficult financial situation for Keith to say the least. With his rent being $780, water/sewer is roughly $125, and his electric ranges from $150-200 per month; Keith has struggled to make ends meet. Receiving the minimal amount of food stamps and with a lack of transportation, he would ride his bike with a basket on the front to the local food distribution center in North Point every month. This financial burden comes after working and paying taxes since 1974.

While receiving radiation therapy for tongue cancer, Keith was required to puree all his food. Since he didn’t have the proper tools, he was forced to use a simple potato masher in order to eat. On top of all of this, his bike began to fail and ultimately ceased working. Keith was desperate for a solution and contacted the C.A.R.E. foundation to seek assistance. 

C.A.R.E. Helps Out

C.A.R.E. came to the rescue and offered a variety of solutions that fit his needs. Not only did they provide proper transportation to daily radiation treatment, they offered him gas cards to give to those who could transport him for other errands and activities. Because nutrition was critical to his health and recovery, they helped him apply for food assistance during his treatment. Above all else, they showed him love and compassion and he responded with gratitude.

When Ridge was about to graduate, the question of covering his senior year fees and expenses became a problem. Supporters of the American Cancer Society (ACS) called his advisor at North Port High School and paid not only for his cap and gown but also his yearbook, a ticket to the prom, and a gift card for $110 for any other expenses he might come across. This deserving young man, whose love for his father exceeded his own desires, was given the opportunity to make a full senior year a reality. His ability to rise above tragedy and still be caring and responsible has made him a person to be admired by others.

Even though a number of options for transportation were offered to Keith, it was still difficult for him to get around when walking was his primary option. ACS supporters responded to his need yet again. This time, they assisted by buying him a new bike. They even a purchased a new blender for him as well so that he could keep his nutritional needs a priority.

Time to Give Back

Keith’s gratitude knows no limits at this point and he decided to give back by volunteering for the North Port Relay for Life. Unfortunately, he was admitted to the ER the night before with health complications, but his desire to give back to the community has not been squelched.  Keith and his son are so thankful for the help 21st Century C.A.R.E. and the American Cancer Society has given them that they regularly give calls and leave messages thanking them for the “blessings,” as Keith calls them, that they received.

The 21st Century C.A.R.E. program is happy to help someone in need, especially those who appreciate their efforts so fully. Anyone who would like to get involved, either through providing donations or volunteering their time to the C.A.R.E. program can do so by visiting http://21stcenturycare.org/volunteer.asp or by emailing Sharon Salenius (ssalenius@21stcenturycare.org).