We’re not talking about the cost to civilization, or even the emotional cost to victims and loved ones. We’re talking about cold, hard cash.

“Cancer drugs that enlist the body’s immune system are improving the odds of survival, but competition between them is not reining in prices that can now top $250,000 a year,” Reuters news service reported.

The President’s Cancer Panel, an independent group established under the National Cancer Act of 1971, said most cancer drugs launched between 2009 and 2014 were priced at more than $100,000 per patient for one year of treatment. Currently, launch prices of new cancer drugs have exceeded $400,000 for a year of treatment.

Faced with such gargantuan bills, is it any wonder many “cancer families” have trouble putting food on the table?

How can you help? Attend Chocolate Fest 2018 from noon until 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 29, at the Port Charlotte Town Center Mall, where a $15 ticket entitles you to sample various chocolate confections throughout the corridors of the mall, all donated by popular local restaurants and chefs, while at the same helping local cancer patients with expenses.

“One hundred percent of the money raised will stay in the local area to help local cancer patients,” said Linda Vernon, physician liaison with 21st Century Oncology and event director for Chocolate Fest.

Funds are distributed through the 21st Century C.A.R.E. (Cancer Assistance, Research and Education) Foundation. The nonprofit charitable foundation provides patients financial assistance for incidental expenses related to active cancer treatments, whether or not they are patients of 21st Century Oncology.

“All of the funding for the financial assistance program comes from donations,” Vernon said. “C.A.R.E. has no employees; all staff are volunteers.”

The financial assistance program provides help for cancer patients through basic expenses like transportation to appointments, groceries, medical supplies, temporary housing should they have complicated cases of cancer and need to go out of town for treatments and childcare. In addition, the foundation works with volunteers who provide a variety of cancer screening programs.

“There is a huge need for assistance with groceries, and we give out a lot of grocery cards,” said Vernon. “We have also provided gas cards so the patients can get to their doctor appointments and have put patients up in temporary housing while under treatment” for complicated cancer cases while out of town.

How big of a problem is this in Charlotte County?

“This is a hard one to answer, since we can only help with those who come to us,” Vernon said. “But we know it’s a huge problem and it is ongoing.”

Cancer patients who need financial assistance should visit the 21st Century C.A.R.E. website (21stcenturycare.org) and click on “Financial Help” for guidelines and applications.

This year’s Chocolate Fest marks the third time the foundation has joined the mall for this unique event. Other sponsors include Ingman Marine and HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital.

“We are proud to team up with the mall to raise funds for cancer patients in our community,” Vernon said. “This event will give all participants the chance to indulge in mouth-watering treats, with the funds going to a great cause.”

Vendors include local restaurants, golf clubs, bakeries and other businesses, whom Vernon said “graciously donate their time and goodies to this event on a Saturday during lunch time. Talk about paying it forward.”

The $15 admission can be paid in advance online at 21stcenturycare.org or on the day of the event at the door. The admission price includes a to-go box filled with the various treats offered at the event.

Comments and suggestions are always welcome. Call Dan Mearns at 941-893-9692 or email danmearns@gmail.com.

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