Once Bill Phalen was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in August 2018, curing his disease became his first priority. Chemotherapy and radiation and surgery, those were the things he needed to focus on. The roof in his South Philly home had been leaking, causing black mold to grow in the bathroom, but there was no way he could fix it in his state.
Then he received a call from Michael Rowe, the founder of Legacy of Hope. The two-year-old nonprofit partners with oncology social workers at local cancer centers to find the most financially distressed patients — those who are facing eviction, who don’t know how they’re going to pay for their next meal, or, in Phalen’s case, who don’t know whether they might get sick from something growing outside their bodies as well as within. “They said they would take care of it,” Phalen says.