Chicago area nonprofit helps women suffering from breast cancer with financial burdens

'When I got diagnosed, for the first time in my life, I'm not in control. That really terrified me': Diana Vargas

ByJudy Hsu and Megan Hawkins WLS logo
Friday, October 21, 2022
Nonprofit financially helps women suffering from breast cancer
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When is Breast Cancer Awareness Month? Nonprofit Embrace Emily helps Chicago area women undergoing treatment with financial burdens.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- "Embrace Emily" is an organization helping local women suffering from breast cancer.

Those women are faced with a devastating diagnosis, and oftentimes, deep financial burdens.

"You wouldn't believe the costs that come with dealing with cancer, and it's not just the medical bills. It's daily living. So Embrace Emily, we are willing to help with anything and everything," said the organization's president, Ellen Noonan.

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It all started when a south suburban woman was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 27.

Emily Klaus fought hard, but ultimately lost her battle in 2017. The following year, Embrace Emily became an official nonprofit.

"We decided as a group - all of her good friends - that we would keep Embrace Emily going on her behalf because that's what she would want us to do," Noonan said.

So, Emily's friends keep fighting. In her absence, they've become allies to other women across the Chicago area, hosting fundraisers and putting donations to use in assisting breast cancer patients and their families, financially.

"I'm a single mom, so I'm used to having two jobs. I'm in full control. I take care of everything. I live on my own. I'm used to the control. And when I got diagnosed, for the first time in my life, I'm not in control. That really terrified me," said Diana Vargas, a breast cancer patient.

Vargas underwent a double mastectomy after being diagnosed earlier this year.

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She's currently in treatment at Loyola University Medical Center. That's where she heard about Embrace Emily and reached out to the organization for help

At this pas summer's annual fundraiser, she received a $6,000 check.

"I thought, 'This is it. This is the hope I've been waiting for.' And it was a game-changer after that," Vargas said. "This means that now, I'm able to get treatment. I'm able to not work two jobs."

Grant recipients like Diana use that money to offset costs that medical insurance doesn't cover. That includes things like food in the fridge, rent or mortgage payments, or even rides to chemo and radiation treatments. They are things that are equally life-sustaining.

"We share Emily's story with all of the women that we help. So, hopefully, they get some strength from Emily as well," Noonan said.