AHSC helps Asian immigrants afford breast cancer care

AHSC helps Asian immigrants afford breast cancer care

PORTLAND, Ore. - We're just a little over a month away from the annual Race for the Cure. Seventy-five percent of the funds raised stays in Oregon and Southwest Washington to help fight breast cancer.

Some of the money is distributed to local organizations dedicated to breaking down financial, cultural and language barriers. For immigrant women like Young Mee Kim, it's a life-saving service. 

Kim fought breast cancer 13 years ago when she was just 35 years old. Thinking of those days brings back strong emotions. Through a Korean interpreter, Kim says the day her doctor told her about the diagnosis was like being handed a death sentence.

"When you hear 'cancer,' death is what comes to mind, and so I thought I'm going to die," she said.

Then two years ago, the unimaginable happened.  Kim found out that the cancer returned.  To make matters worse, she no longer had health insurance. 

"For people without health insurance, it's one thing to find out you are sick and have cancer, the main concern is finance. How am I going to pay for all this?  Because of this, the pain is doubled," she said. 

So she turned to the Asian Health and Service Center in Southeast Portland.

AHSC helped Young Mee Kim with interpreting, setting up appointments, paying for treatment and getting the support she needed during her recovery process.

"Through AHSC this was all resolved so I felt a bit more relieved and could focus on just my fight with this disease," Kim said. "If it wasn't for AHSC I'd be in a very difficult situation and my recovery would probably have taken longer." 

The center's mission is to reduce health disparities and increase access to high-quality health care for all Asians. 

The AHSC received $250,000 from the Susan G. Komen for the Cure over the past eight years to help prevent and fight breast cancer.

Maria Park, the Asian Health and Service Center's Program Coordinator, says their partnership with Susan G. Komen for the Cure allows them to educate women about breast cancer and help them overcome language, cultural and financial obstacles. 

"We're so thankful in that we were able to help them," Park said. "(It’s) so rewarding and it's so great to see healthy families." 

In 2011, AHSC was awarded the "Grantee of the Year" by the Susan G. Komen for the Cure for its work in helping 56 women get the help they needed. 

The AHSC is hosting a community health fair that includes free clinical breast exams on Saturday, August 18, 2012, from 11a.m. to 4 p.m. at its office at 3430 S.E. Powell Boulevard, Portland, Ore.