Katie Bushnell: defying her diagnosis

When Katie Bushnell was first diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in 2018, she prepared for the worst. In the years since her diagnosis, her cancer has spread, but so has her determination.  

“They said I wouldn’t still be here. But as you can see, I’m still here,” she said. “I’ve been scrambling to stay here for three years.” 

She lives and works in the San Francisco Bay area, but her main job—according to Katie—is scouring the internet for grant opportunities and financial assistance. She’s gone without her medication for several months at a time when she didn’t have a grant and couldn’t afford the more than $4,000 a month co-pay. 

When she received a co-pay grant through PAN, she was able to apply for transportation support as well. It’s made a huge difference. A friend of a friend generously offered use of her car, but Katie isn’t always able to drive herself after the physical and emotional strain of her treatments. Her driving time varies but can take up to two hours each way.

It’s pretty upsetting to go to these appointments. Every time they pretty much tell me I’m not going to make it. But here I am making it.”

She’s used her transportation grant to fill her public transportation pass, pay tolls when she does drive herself to appointments, and even take a rideshare when she isn’t able to drive or find a friend. The flexibility of the program has been a relief, particularly during the pandemic when she isn’t able to take public transportation because of her compromised immune system.  

“It’s been helpful to at least have the rides from PAN, to know that I have money when I need it,” she said. “I don’t have to worry about how I’m going to get to an appointment.” 

Katie’s cancer is stage four, and her initial prognosis gave her months to live and an outpouring of support from friends and family. One of the challenges as she continues to defy her diagnosis odds—though a welcome one—has been the sustained need for help. 

It’s hard for people to understand how much help you really need, or with transportation how much that really costs.”

She appreciates the autonomy that her transportation grant provided, giving her the flexibility manage her appointments independently and not always rely on her friends and loved ones. 

She’s still hoping for “radical remission.” Until then, Katie is thankful to have a support system, her 14-year-old cat, Squeaker, and the support of the PAN Foundation.