In 2011, I became a metastatic breast cancer patient after an initial diagnosis in 2003. I had no clue what it meant to be “metastatic” and everything that was attached to this word. My doctor told me I would begin monthly shots, and in my mind that was it. I continued my daily schedule of working long hours and what I thought was a normal life. One day, I decided to attend a support group. No one in the support group looked like me in skin color, and they were quite older and seasoned. I immediately thought this group wasn’t for me. But I heard one lady say “honey why are you still working?” I thought to myself – Is that possible, not to work, as a single parent with a mortgage, bills, and other responsibilities. I was clueless of what that looked like, but I was eager to find out.
Now let’s fast forward to 2014. I had figured out how to no longer work at my 9-5 job, but I wasn’t sure how to spend my days. I mostly helped family and friends get things done while they worked, but it wasn’t enough. When one of my friends suggested I start an errands business, I envisioned what that would look like, set rates, and created Angel in Disguise Events – a concierge service, which included transportation services. Once I created this new “job” for myself I started handing out business cards, and included transportation services.
One day, I received a phone call to drive a breast cancer patient to 3 appointments, as her children were working. The lady advised she did not have the means to pay me. I told her it was ok, and I would be there to serve her. On this day, we spent 5 hours together – I drove 90 miles and went to 3 appointments with her. Before she got in my car she didn’t know me and I didn’t know her. By the time I dropped her off and returned home, the light bulb came on – I thought “If she doesn’t have money to pay me, there must be other patients like her.” I told the universe I would start a nonprofit organization to provide complimentary transportation to cancer patients, and in September 2015, Angel in Disguise Inc. became an official 501(c)3 in Charlotte, NC. We refer to our patients as our #VIDAS, and we bridge several gaps that they face. Transportation is one of the biggest needs among breast cancer patients – transportation to all cancer-related doctor appointments, treatment, surgery, medicine pickup, and light errands. This need is especially critical when you do not have a ride or when you are unable to drive yourself. I personally drive our VIDAS, and wait with the patient. This way, the patient has companionship, and given that we are both breast cancer survivors, there is a common understanding. Additional gaps that we bridge for breast cancer patients are aftercare meals, care bags and peer support.
Today, Angel in Disguise Inc. is a grassroots nonprofit. It is bigger than I had imagined and I will continue to help fellow breast cancer survivors have a positive and supportive experience though their breast cancer journey.
Written by: Angela ‘Jersi’ Baker, Tigerlily MBC ANGEL Advocate