Vendor Fair is inaugural event for new cancer charity | Local News

A Jefferson County woman who lost her husband to cancer after a two-year battle is doing what she can to help other families navigate the same long, difficult and expensive journey.

Lori Fechter of Festus has founded the Fechter Cancer Care Foundation and launched an online vendor fair to raise money to help cancer patients and their families cover their day-to-day needs.

“I have approximately 20 vendors – Tupperware, Pampered Chef, those kind of ‘party’ sales vendors,” said Fechter, president of the foundation. “They are donating 15 percent of their sales during this two-week fair.”

She said vendors often end up awarding prizes to sellers for reaching certain sales levels; during this promotion, those prizes also will be donated to the foundation and raffled off in “probably late June.”

The Main & Mill Brewing Co. and restaurant in Festus also will donate a portion of its sales during the fundraising period, Fechter said.

“The vendor fair closes on April 30,” she said.

All the funds will go toward the new foundation, established earlier this year and which earned nonprofit 501(c)3 status in late March.

“So, all donations are tax-deductible,” Fechter said. Donations may be made via the Fechter Cancer Care Foundation page on Facebook.

Fechter, 58, is an oncology nurse who retired in 2017 after a long career with Missouri Hematology and Oncology in Festus. She lost her husband, Doug, to pancreatic cancer in June 2020.

She is a longtime volunteer for cancer charities, having served as chair of the annual Relay for Life event in Festus for many years and volunteering when the American Cancer Society consolidated the Relay into one countywide event in 2017.

She already had been seeking other ways to help cancer patients, even before her husband’s illness.

“The plan for this was already in the works before I even retired (in 2017),” she said. “But his passing pushed me to get it started. It doesn’t take away the pain of his loss, but it makes me feel like I’m doing something right.”

Overwhelming

Doug Fechter, who worked as a machine repairman at St. Gobain Containers in Pevely, was diagnosed with Stage 4 neuroendocrine carcinoma of the pancreas in early 2018.

“He retired in September 2017, and I retired that December,” Fechter said. “Then he was diagnosed in January. So the timing worked out that I could take care of him, but it was hard. It was emotionally devastating.”

Fechter said the experience opened her eyes to the financial struggles cancer patients often face.

“As an oncology nurse, I was always on the medical side of cancer patients’ needs,” she said. “I didn’t realize that patients didn’t always share their life issues and their struggles outside the hospital.

“When Doug was diagnosed, I realized what cancer patients really go through on a day-to-day basis.”

Fechter said she and her husband were fortunate and didn’t have to worry about money, but for many families, the extra costs associated with treatment can force them to make some hard choices.

“Your loved one is diagnosed, and you know they will need your care and your help,” she said. “But you have to decide what’s more important – quitting my job and taking care of my family member, or keeping my job so I can keep the insurance that pays for the treatment? It’s unbelievably hard.”

The cost of medications, special equipment, transportation all get added on top of the patient’s regular bills.

“With radiation, for example, people have to drive back and forth daily, sometimes for weeks,” Fechter said. “So there’s gas money, wear and tear on the car, food, parking. There’s just a lot of extra expense.”

Fechter said large corporations, as well as national organizations like the American Cancer Society, do wonders when it comes to money for cancer research.

“But there’s not much help out there for these other things,” she said. “The ACS has its ride program, but even that doesn’t go to all areas. There’s just not much help out there for the everyday essentials.”

Fechter hopes her foundation will be able to fill some of that gap.

“We want to have the resources to be able to help patients with food, gas, utility bills, co-pay assistance,” she said. “Eventually, we hope we can expand to offer help with end-of-life requests, like flying in a family member to visit.”

Help with paperwork

The foundation also will offer help and advice to families trying to navigate the bewildering array of red tape that can follow the loss of a loved one.

“It was such a rude awakening for me, after Doug died,” Fechter said. “Our checking account was in both our names, but his was listed first, so they locked me out of the profile. They canceled the debit card that was hooked to our account that most of our regular bills are paid out of. They closed his patient account at Siteman (Cancer Center in St. Louis), with its automatic payment, so I have to call in every month and arrange each payment all over again.

“You wouldn’t believe the steps you have to go through – bills, banking, insurance. It’s tough enough, from an emotional standpoint, to be dealing with the death, and then having to deal with all the rest of that stuff is mind-boggling. We want to help people understand what to expect and how to get through it.”

The foundation is administered by Fechter along with her children: Terin Fechter, Brad Fechter and Sarah and husband Jacob Kort.

Those interested in donating may do so by check at 3348 Green Drive, Festus, 63028; or on the Fechter Cancer Care Foundation’s Facebook page. For information, contact Fechter at 314-608-2504 or email fechtercancercarefoundation@yahoo.com.

“Any help is appreciated,” Fechter said. “Doug may be gone, but I am still dealing with cancer every day. I just hope we can help make another cancer patient’s life easier.”

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