Compassion is defined as having a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is hurting or has experienced some sort of profound misfortune. More importantly, compassion is not only deeply feeling or identifying with someone’s hurts, struggles or pain, it also involves being motivated or compelled to do something about it.

As the old saying goes, “compassion is passion in action” — positive, encouraging, uplifting and transformative action.

A cancer diagnosis elicits such action. Last year around 1.6 million people in the United States were diagnosed with cancer. Unfortunately, like so many before them, they had to deal with a mix of feelings as a result. Feelings that range from anxiety to anger, loneliness to helplessness, denial to depression, and fear to stress. Such feelings are a natural result of someone understanding the seriousness of the threat this dreaded disease now poses to their health and existence. A cancer diagnosis is the start of a physical battle for survival.

Yet, not only does a cancer diagnosis elicit this type of profound emotional distress due to the implications it has on one’s life physically. Such distress can be magnified as one further contemplates its financial toll. As one well-known oncologist noted, “Over 14 million people in the U.S. are living with cancer, and it’s one of the five most costly medical conditions. This forces many patients to make decisions about their health care and cancer treatment based on finances, not on what is best for their health.”

A cancer diagnosis means having to receive a plethora of services, and even for those with insurance the costs can quickly add up and become unbearable. Fighting the disease and coping with the financial burden of trying to wage the fight can, for many, be a heavy cross to bear. Compassion is needed.

Compassion is precisely what the local Anchor Cross Foundation provides. One of its stated goals is to “allow patients to focus on their health and to fight cancer by assisting them in overcoming other potential personal and financial burdens.”

Last year Anchor Cross provided over $4,300 in transportation and lodging assistance, over $8,300 in prescription drug assistance, around $7,000 to help patients pay their utility bills and another $10,000 for those in our community who needed assistance in paying insurance premiums and other insurance-related expenses. The organization’s compassion — its passion in action — has been a tremendous support system for many in our community.

Sitting and talking with Daniel Meshad, who coordinates the program, his energy and excitement about the program as well as his commitment are palpable. He says Anchor Cross was started because it became increasingly evident that many people in the Mobile/Baldwin county area were having a tough time dealing with the financial costs and pressures a cancer diagnosis can bring.

“I hate to see good people incurring a lifetime of debt battling this disease,” Meshad said. “It’s a very stressful situation when you have to worry about your life, and your finances.” Yet far too many people in Mobile and Baldwin counties do exactly that.

The Anchor Cross Foundation operates under the umbrella of the Southern Cancer Center. Meshad says the genesis of the foundation goes back to 2007, when some of the physicians and staff members of the Southern Cancer Center decided to set some funds aside to help outpatients and their families during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. It soon became apparent a much larger need existed.

In 2010, efforts took on a more formal structure with a 501(c)(3) being formed and the nonprofit entity being named the Anchor Cross Foundation. Now it’s a community-wide endeavor that strives to meet the needs of local cancer patients who are struggling to keep their lights on, feed their families, pay for treatments and copays, find a place to stay, make a rent or mortgage payment, get transportation to and from treatments.

Meshad points out that due diligence is made to ensure someone is legitimately in need, but once that determination has been made they respond quickly in most cases to offer assistance. They have little red tape and 100 percent of the money Anchor Cross receives is spent locally.

Additionally, and just as important, Anchor Cross directs or navigates patients to other resources that may be available locally or through the state or federal government. About once a week, Meshad says, he goes to the Social Security Administration with patients to help them apply for benefits.

We often rightfully think of the emotional support that an individual will need throughout his or her journey dealing with something as life-altering as a cancer diagnosis. But just as important is the practical support a person may end up needing as well.

Compassion — passion in action — can be displayed in many ways. Thankfully, our community has an organization in Anchor Cross that is willing to coordinate and advance those compassionate efforts.