What started as a pilot project in 2016 is now a statewide resource and safe haven for breast cancer survivors and patients. The Forge, one of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama’s partners, gives hope to the 4,500 women diagnosed with breast cancer each year in Alabama. Here’s what you need to know.
The Forge provides services for breast cancer patients + survivors
From the beginning, The Forge has partnered with local health systems, but their mission is distinct—they want to always be there for breast cancer patients and survivors. Many of their clients live in rural areas of Alabama, and the assistance provided by The Forge makes it easier for them to access the healthcare services they need.
Lauren Roberts, executive director at The Forge, summed it up like this: “We are from the day you hear you have cancer through the rest of your life.”
But what does that mean? Things like this:
- Gas Cards: On average, The Forge’s clients travel 90 miles each way for medical appointments. To keep travel expenses low, The Forge provides gas cards and ride services.
- Grocery Carts: When a diagnosis turns your world upside-down, getting enough nourishing, healthy food may not be top-of-mind. That’s why the The Forge provides grocery services for their clients.
- Hardship Fund: To help with rent, utilities, childcare and more necessities, The Forge has established a Hardship Fund, allowing their clients to focus on getting better.
- Wigs: The Forge has partnered with Paul Mitchell School to provide clients with free wigs, which are typically expensive and not covered by insurance.
“We leave medical care to your doctor—because that’s what they do well—and we handle the rest of it.”Lauren Roberts, Executive Director, The Forge
One of the biggest reasons The Forge is able to do all this? Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama. Learn more about their important role.
The Forge offers mental support, too
To provide true comprehensive care, The Forge knows it can’t just stop at physical needs. The mental toll of receiving a breast cancer diagnosis is heavy, and they want to help with that, too.
Roberts explained in the process of receiving a breast cancer diagnosis and the treatment that comes after, a lot about a woman changes. The mental struggles it can bring are hard to take on alone—which is where The Forge comes in.
“We want to be there for that part of the journey as well—not just getting you to appointments, but also making sure you’re in a good mental place to be able to deal with it for the rest of your life.”Lauren Roberts, Executive Director, The Forge
To do so, they’ve partnered with Oasis to provide free mental health counseling for both their clients and their loved ones.
Another super important partnership The Forge has formed is the one with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama.
From Birmingham to the whole state of Alabama
Originally, The Forge was meant to serve the five counties surrounding Birmingham. This changed in 2020, though, after a phone call from a breast cancer patient who needed help.
She didn’t have enough money to pay for the gas needed to get her to her radiation appointment. Though The Forge didn’t serve the caller’s area in the state at the time, the team couldn’t say no. This one phone call led to a much-needed expansion.
“I set up a meeting with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama and we explained the situation. They were our first donor who allowed us to serve other people in the state, and they continue to do that…They really changed the trajectory of our organization. Otherwise, we would still be in five counties and the rest of the state would not have access to all of these resources and support.”Lauren Roberts, Executive Director, The Forge
This is just the tip of the iceberg for Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s community involvements. See more here.
The Forge’s Birmingham home is a refuge
One of the most special things that The Forge has done is transform a beautiful, historic home in Birmingham into a safe haven.
Established in 2020, this centrally-located “home away from home” is a place where breast cancer patients and survivors can have access to The Forge’s services—or just stop by for a cup of coffee and a chat with someone who truly understands what they’re going through or have been through.
“We pair a lot of our clients with a volunteer who had their same diagnosis—somebody who actually gets what they are specifically going through. They will meet at our house and have a cup of coffee or do a puzzle and just talk through what’s going on.
We’re there. You know you’re safe. You can say anything you want there—we’ve heard it all and we get it.”Lauren Roberts, Executive Director, The Forge
Want to see more of what Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama is doing for the state? Check it out.