Chicago Area Nonprofit Fills Unique Niche for Low-Income Cancer Patients During Chemotherapy

CHICAGO, Aug. 18 /PRNewswire/ — When the doctor told Dionne she had breast cancer, she was stunned. This wasn’t supposed to happen. She had children, a husband, and a family that needed her. She would have to undergo extensive chemotherapy, which meant spending money she didn’t have. She felt scared, worried, and angry. But mostly, she felt alone.

But help was just around the corner. During her treatment, she was referred to a non-profit organization whose sole purpose was to help people with their expenses while undergoing treatment. Thanks to No Wooden Nickels, Dionne received some relief for medical bills piling up. No Wooden Nickels paid her utility bills and through their scholarship fund, paid for her daughter’s college textbooks, too.

No Wooden Nickels is the brainchild of Lorna Khawaja, a former systems engineer turned advocate for cancer patients and their families. It was during her father’s battle with prostate cancer in 2005 that Lorna first noticed how little indirect but critical financial support there was for people going through treatment for cancer.

With help from their expanding list of referral partners, word spread about the organization, both in Illinois where it’s headquartered and across the nation. And for good reason, too: it’s the only organization of its kind to provide indirect expense assistance to struggling cancer families exclusively.

In operation since 2005, NWN has assisted patients from as far away as Alaska.

“Although a portion of our funds are earmarked for assistance outside of Illinois, MedStart-5 wasn’t designed to leave the State until 2010. It was important for us to control growth,” Lorna says. She concedes, however, “When you’re trying to assist a nine-year-old girl with a brain tumor in hospice or a wife whose husband’s passing left her with no life insurance, savings and possibly homeless, you begin to re-shuffle your strategy.”

Unlike insurance companies, No Wooden Nickels does not use a standard formula to determine which families receive assistance. They understand each situation is unique, and evaluate applications on a case-by-case basis.

One challenge No Wooden Nickels currently faces is that like other start- up charitable organizations, funding is in short supply. MedStart-5 needs a healthy shot in the arm of funding operational costs. “We’re currently searching for strategic alliances and partnerships that will move us to the next level. It would afford us the opportunity to support more families and hire staff. It’s never a good feeling having to turn anyone away for such badly needed assistance,” Lorna states.

Endorsing preventive care through education, the organization hosts its annual Health Fair for Men in Chicago. They receive tips from medical professionals on how to decrease their chances of getting a host of preventable diseases. Screenings for PSA, diabetes and cholesterol are performed free of charge. Their website hosts articles on cancer therapies, inspirational stories by cancer survivors and a newly added ask-the-doctor column which address expectations after diagnosis and general health questions.

Learn more about MedStart-5 and No Wooden Nickels at

   Media Contact:   Lorna Khawaja   Executive Director   No Wooden Nickels   888-842-2654   847-399-0590 (Direct)   [email protected]    

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No Wooden Nickels

CONTACT: Lorna Khawaja, Executive Director of No Wooden Nickels,+1-888-842-2654, +1-847-399-0590, [email protected]

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