In 2000, Dr. Sandy Goldberg received a breast cancer diagnosis. In her words, “I felt like I was hit by a bus.” Two days later, she underwent surgery. During her recovery and treatment, Sandy realized that the support, care and insurance she had on her journey was not readily accessible to so many others who receive a cancer diagnosis, be it breast cancer or any cancer.

As a breast cancer survivor (23 years and counting!) and inspired in part by the words of her late mother – “we are all family, and we have to help each other through the tough times” – Sandy set out to level the playing field.

2001 – CAN-TVs Hotline 21 Premiers – Recognition of Need

Through a relationship with the American Cancer Society, Sandy created a cable show where she interviewed cancer specialists and viewers could call in. The number of calls outpaced the show. People were using the show as their source of primary care. Sandy learned that people believed they weren’t worthy of access to healthcare because they had no money and no insurance. She was heartbroken…and determined.

2002 – A Silver Lining Foundation Is Born

The foundation started as an outreach program. A referral network was developed with multiple local, regional and national organizations. If someone needed information about cancer, they could contact ASLF. (Then) Mayor Daley heard about ASLF’s work and connected the foundation with 311, a partnership unique to the Chicago metropolitan area, which continues today as part of the CCIC program.

Over time, a greater need came to the forefront.

2006 – Buy A Mom A Mammogram ® Is Launched

Mammography is the most effective method of early detection of breast cancer. Too many women lack access to testing. They are uninsured, underinsured, undocumented, poor, misinformed, fearful. ASLF sought to bridge this healthcare gap by creating the Buy A Mom A Mammogram ® (BAMAM) program. In the first year of BAMAM, 95 screening mammograms were funded at UI Health, ASLF’s first partner hospital.

In the years since its inception, BAMAM has:

• expanded to include diagnostic testing – mammogram, ultrasound, MRI, and biopsy
• partnered with hospitals throughout Chicagoland and the surrounding region, all of which ensure access to cost-free treatment should there be a breast cancer diagnosis
• funded nearly 30,000 cost-free screening mammograms and diagnostic tests

In the years since its founding, ASLF has continued to respond to need by funding breast health testing for increasingly vulnerable populations and by recognizing the changing and challenging world we live in. Starting with outreach and resource information, expanding to breast health testing, education and survivor support, ASLF keeps its finger on the pulse of current need.

2016 into 2018 – Illinois Budget Crisis

When the Illinois budget impasse left the state without a budget for nearly three years, most Federally Qualified Health Centers and a significant number of clinics lost their funding. This resulted in many closing their doors permanently. Those that survived were met with demand that far outpaced funding and turned to ASLF for help in closing the gap created by this budget crisis. From 2016 through 2018, ASLF funded 8,001 procedures for 6,185 women. But that crisis paled in comparison to what would come only two years later.

2020 – Everything Stopped Except the Need

When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down and indelibly changed the world we live in, the vulnerable populations served by ASLF expanded to include the newly uninsured, those who experienced pandemic-related job loss and loss of health insurance. In one month alone, ASLF funded six biopsies for women in what we call the “newly uninsured” category. Three – fifty percent – were diagnosed with breast cancer. To further serve the newly uninsured, ASLF created a partnership with the Illinois Restaurant Association to provide cost-free breast health testing to an industry devastated by the pandemic.

ASLF’s core philosophy rests on the principle that no one is turned away. Anyone able to reach one of ASLF’s partner hospitals, regardless of where they live, whether within or outside of Illinois, will be served. Need is the only prerequisite.

Quoting a woman whose life was saved through testing funded by ASLF, “Everyone deserves a chance to survive.”