Molly MacDonald was between jobs when she was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer in 2005. Unable to work to pay the mortgage and other bills while undergoing two surgeries and six weeks of daily radiation treatments, the mother of five felt completely overwhelmed.
Then her house was foreclosed and she began to visit food banks for help. “I thought, ‘I am a complete loser,’ ” she tells PEOPLE. “I can’t feed my family.’ “
After returning to work full-time in sales and marketing and once again able to support her family, MacDonald, 66, of Beverly Hills, Michigan, decided to help other women undergoing breast cancer treatments to pay their bills and focus on healing.
“If I could just help one woman, something good would have come out of this,” she says.
So MacDonald started raising money from small donors and corporate sponsors to pay for up to 90 days and $3,000 of non-medical bill payments directly to creditors — mortgages, rent, car payments and other expenses.
Since launching in 2006, MacDonald and her non-profit, The Pink Fund, has helped 1,754 women (and four men), paying out over $2.3 million.
“I feel no breast cancer survivor should be in the position I was in,” says MacDonald, now a grandmother. “I found through this what really matters and it’s helping people, it a huge gift.”
It’s a gift appreciated by Daniela Jankovska, 49, of South Plainfield, New Jersey, a single mom and manager of a school cafeteria. She couldn’t work for months after her surgeries last May and June.
“I was making the decision to buy food or pay a bill,” Jankovska tells PEOPLE.
She’s glad she did. For three months, The Pink Fund has paid Jankovska’s electric, sewer, water and phone bills — $2,300 in all.
“I feel they have given me my life back,” she says. “I can sleep at night and I don’t worry about not having money to give my son for lunch. They are wonderful people.”
Kimberly Cooper, 55, of Harvard, Illinois, was unable to work at her Walmart job due to treatments for breast cancer that spread to her lymph nodes and liver. Through The Pink Fund, she received help with her $900 a month rent and water bills.
“I don’t know what I would do without them,” says Cooper. “I think it’s just awesome.”
Says Deborah Hale, 49, of Brighton, Michigan, who is receiving help with car and electric payments and unable to work due her compromised immune system following surgery, chemo and radiation: “It was hard enough for me to take care of myself emotionally and physically, and I was worrying about getting these bills paid. When they said they would pay these bills, it was a weight off my shoulders.”
“I don’t have enough gratitude to express for this,” she adds.