Phyllis Bass: leaning on family and advocating for others

Outside of Houston, Texas—in a suburb called Cyprus—Phyllis Bass has built a community of support around herself over the past 20 years.

This community includes her mother who lives with Phyllis for six months each year, the kids that live next door who she views as her own children, and her brothers who stepped up as caregivers following one of her most recent surgeries.

“Support is everything,” said Phyllis. “Support is what has me going right now. Having someone there who understands your disease, can empathize with you, and believes in you means the world. I don’t know where I’d be without the support of my family and those around me.”

If it weren’t for my PAN grant covering my monthly infusions, I don’t know where I would be today.

Phyllis Bass

Diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis when she was five years of age, Phyllis isn’t letting her ongoing, painful disease slow her down. As a chronic inflammatory disorder, rheumatoid arthritis causes the immune system to attack its own tissues and often results in progressive joint deterioration. And although she’s had six joint replacement surgeries to date, and expects more in the future, Phyllis continues to prioritize her love of learning, volunteering, and patient advocacy to keep her motivated and fulfilled.

“My mom taught me how to advocate for myself over the years and now I’m committed to advocating for others,” she said. “It’s so rewarding to see the fruits of your labor and how you’re helping other people get better and receive the care they need.”

As a member of the PAN Foundation’s Patient and Family Advisory Council, Phyllis hopes to address healthcare access and affordability challenges by being a voice for those who rely on charitable assistance programs—like PAN—to help afford the medications and treatments they need. As a Medicare beneficiary living on a fixed income, she knows all too well the worry and stress of someone facing high out-of-pocket costs for prescription medications.

Having received PAN’s life changing support through its copay assistance program for the past five years, she wants to do everything she can to let others know about these services and how PAN can help them financially so they too can focus on improving their own quality of life.

“If it weren’t for my PAN grant covering my monthly infusions, I don’t know where I would be today,” said Phyllis. “Before I started these infusions, I felt horrible. But after receiving my first infusion, my life slowly started coming back to me. I had hope again.”

In addition to her advocacy efforts, Phyllis hasn’t let her diagnosis or health challenges stand in the way of her lifelong love of learning. Previously having enjoyed a long career in insurance and human resources, she recently earned her bachelor’s degree in business administration in 2018 and graduated with two master’s degrees in 2020—one in management and one in business administration. When she’s not furthering her education or advocating for others, Phyllis enjoys spending her free time reading, exercising, gardening, and traveling.

And as she looks toward the future, Phyllis is determined to fight every day to live a normal life and do everything possible to help others do the same through her advocacy efforts.

“Nothing will stop me. The pain and adversity I’ve experienced have given me the strength to continue advocating for great causes and to be the best individual I know how to be,” she said.