Cancer Crusader

Founder, A Silver Lining Foundation

Imagine waking up one morning to discover a lump in your breast. And not having any money, let alone health insurance. What do you do?

If you live in or near Chicago, you can call the local foundation A Silver Lining (312-345-1322). The organization arranges diagnostic tests for breast cancer at eight area hospitals (and one in Rockford) and pays the entire cost—significant given that a single biopsy can cost thousands of dollars. “There are no [income or insurance] qualifications,” says Sandy Goldberg, 68, who founded ASLF in 2002. “Just ask for help and you can have it.”

In 2000, the nutritionist and contributor to NBC-5, who lives in the South Loop, began battling breast cancer herself. (She is currently cancer-free.) Goldberg noticed something troubling: lots of fellow patients who “thought they weren’t worthy because they had no money and no insurance. It made me sick.”

That prompted the founding of ASLF, which is funded entirely with corporate sponsorships, individual donations, and grants. This year the foundation is on track to serve about 1,200 patients, spending about $300,000 on screening and diagnostic mammograms, ultrasounds, and biopsies. “Of the patients we screen, one in ten comes through A Silver Lining,” says Howard Ozer, director of the University of Illinois Cancer Center, an early ASLF partner.

Since 2010, ASLF has doubled the number of women it screens annually. And the group reaches thousands more through a busy schedule of weekly events, located throughout the city and suburbs, that teach participants how to do self-exams and stress the importance of regular screenings. Goldberg says she has no plans to slow down. “The day we feel that there are no more women who need access to a mammogram,” she pledges, “that’s the time we’ll look into something else.”