- Associated Press - Sunday, March 23, 2014

BATESVILLE, Ark. (AP) - After Sherrin Watson of Strawberry was diagnosed with thrombocytopenia, she was told she would eventually need a bone marrow transplant in St. Louis.

But with her husband Arlin retired and she having to leave her job because of her illness, they didn’t know how they would afford the gas to take her treatments in Batesville - much less travel out of state for a transplant.

She’s not alone.

Cliff Knappenberger was first diagnosed with lung cancer last August, then right before Christmas he found out he has brain cancer as well. “They just keep finding things,” the 49-year-old Evening Shade resident said.

Knappenberger had to quit his job in drywalling and construction, saying, “That didn’t just go with cancer.”

But thanks to a new program called Ribbons of Hope, Watson, Knappenberger and countless other patients of Batesville Oncology Clinic and the White River Medical Center’s Cancer Care Center don’t have to choose between filling up the car with gas to come take a treatment, or buying food or paying another bill.

Ribbons of Hope is a nonprofit organization established last year to help meet the immediate needs of the cancer patients treated in the Batesville area, according to Tiffany Cox, office manager at Batesville Oncology.

Cox told The Batesville Daily Guard (http://bit.ly/1j7l8wk ) that Batesville Oncology and the Cancer Care Center have teamed up for Ribbons of Hope and work with one another to offer different types of treatment. For instance, she said, the oncology office doesn’t offer radiation, just chemotherapy and other infusions, whereas the Cancer Care Center does the radiation side of treatment.

“Back when we were in the other building across the street … we would have patients call and say they weren’t going to make their appointment because they couldn’t afford the gas, or they’d say, ‘Don’t call in that prescription, I don’t have the money for it.’

“The employees would pass a hat and pitch in to meet the patients’ needs, but it just got to be overwhelming for us,” she continued. “So we came up with this fund.”

The money is dispensed according to the doctors’ discretion, and patients don’t have to show proof of income.

“Whatever the patients’ needs are, we help them out,” she said. “It is our goal to ensure that these patients have transportation to their appointments and treatments. We want to make sure that they have access to prescription medications and that no one goes hungry because of the burden that cancer adds to someone.”

Last year the program had bake sales and a yard sale and Cox said they are planning more benefit fundraisers to build up the funds.

“The radiation machine (at the Cancer Care Center) is down, so patients have had to travel to Jonesboro. They have to come here first to get chemo, then go to Jonesboro for five days,” Cox said.

Typically, they come home for the weekend, then start the process over on Monday morning, Cox said.

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