Wealthy Breast Cancer Survivor Dedicates Money, Time to Helping Poor Patients


In another three years, Ricks estimates their effort will have trained more than 5,000 people to be patient navigators, a third of them previously unemployed. One of their partners is an organization called Strive in Harlem, which trains the unemployed members of the community for jobs.

"So not only are we saving lives, but we're putting our country back to work," Ricks said.

Ricks knows firsthand the difference a navigator can make. When her friend and make-up artist Valdis was diagnosed with stage-four breast cancer, Valdis' doctor wanted to put her on a new drug that the Food and Drug Administration hadn't approved yet and her insurance company declined to cover it. Valdis said it would have cost her about $6,000 per treatment if it hadn't been for Ricks acting as her navigator. She ended up getting the medication.

Back at the Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Care and Prevention, Nightline talked to another patient named Sheila Santana. Though her breast cancer is now in remission, Santana said she believes she wouldn't have had the strength to get through the health care system without her patient navigator, Patricia Montanez.

"I'm overwhelmed also with this sickness that I'm going through," Santana said. "I need Patricia to be here for me."

Ricks and Freeman have become not just business partners, but also good friends. Just this spring, Ricks got married and she asked Freeman give her away.

"Dr. Freeman had saved me emotionally and mentally and given me a purpose in life," she said.

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