Patient Care Fund Goes Beyond Medical Needs


Billy Underhill lifts his smiling son William. Billy values the support his family has received from the Patient Care Fund.

Financial Assistance Lifts Some of the Burden of Daily Life

Like most fathers, 37-year-old Billy Underhill’s primary concern is providing a comfortable life for his family, including his 21-month-old son, William. For Underhill, the normal stresses of raising a family have been compounded by a cancer diagnosis. 

The Pawcatuck, Connecticut, resident is battling liposarcoma, a rare form of cancer. Underhill won two bouts with the same cancer in his 20s. Its recurrence in late 2014 has forced Underhill to once again devote much of his time and energy to shrinking existing tumors, leaving him unable to work. 

A Lifespan Cancer Institute social worker assigned to aid Underhill and his fiancée, Chelsea, in navigating their medical journey directed them to resources from the Patient Care Fund, as well as other community resources.

“Luckily my social worker, Susan, was able to connect me with grants, as well as money in the form of gift cards from the Patient Care Fund. Without the help, I don’t know where I would be, both physically and mentally,” Underhill said.

The fund at Rhode Island Hospital distributes much-needed assistance to patients and their families, in the form of grocery store gift cards, help with utility and housing payments, transportation support and more. When Underhill heard that the staff at the Lifespan Cancer Institute were planning its first annual Rising Above Cancer 5K Walk/Run and Family Fun Day to help replenish the fund, he didn’t hesitate to ask how he could help. He became a public spokesperson for the cause and formed his own fundraising team.  

Underhill knows how a cancer diagnosis impacts the livelihood of patients. “The first thing that I thought of when I received a cancer diagnosis for the third time was, ‘How am I going to support my family?’ The mortgage and utility bills need to be paid. My family needs to eat,” explained Underwood, who is engaged to marry in the fall. 

How you can help

Donations to the Patient Care Fund at the Lifespan Cancer Institute are accepted on an ongoing basis. For more information or to donate, please contact Sharon Benson at 401-606-2000 or email sbenson@lifespan.org.

It was hematology/oncology nurse practitioner Sharon Benson who conceived the idea of holding the fundraiser. “Every day we’re providing the best clinical care possible to our patients,” said Benson. “But it’s more than that. We see many of our patients for long periods of time. We get to know them, their stories, their families. Being able to provide a support like the Patient Care Fund is an extra step that we hope will make a difference to our patients, and let them focus on their fight.”

The walk, held in July at Warwick’s City Park, raised nearly $30,000 to benefit both the Patient Care Fund and the Complementary Medicine Program, which offers Lifespan Cancer Institute patients on-site programs including massage, Reiki and pet therapy. There were nearly 500 participants registered for the 5K, including patients, survivors, staff and families. Dozens more volunteered, and countless children were also present to participate in the Family Fun Day aspect of the Saturday morning event. Underhill’s family contingent numbered more than 20.

“Our goal with this work and other activities is to ensure that patients aren’t weighing treatment options against their ability to pay their living expense,” added Benson.