Merle Andrews remembers how mightily her grandmother struggled decades ago, having been diagnosed with advanced breast cancer at a time when few treatments were available.
“I was very young, and I remember it was awful,” she says.
Now retired, Merle and her husband, Larry, want to help others in their community benefit from better care through research at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist’s Comprehensive Cancer Center. Through a bequest, they have designated a portion of their estate to support the Merle and Larry Andrews Fund for Breast and Brain Cancer Research, which they established several years ago, when Merle was serving as a cancer advisory board member.
“We are so fortunate here in Winston-Salem to have a Comprehensive Cancer Center to go to for treatment,” she says. “It’s such a tremendous privilege to have it here, and it’s important for us to support it and keep it growing.”
Learning and Giving
Merle’s successful banking career led to an opportunity to learn about the Comprehensive Cancer Center firsthand. A banking colleague who was involved with supporting the cancer center asked if Merle would consider joining the advisory board, and she served for more than a decade.
“During that experience, I learned how incredibly hard it is to be a Comprehensive Cancer Center,” she says, noting the high standards required to maintain the National Cancer Institute’s “comprehensive” designation.
The couple’s giving began during her advisory board service. They chose to support brain and breast cancer research through their endowed fund because those are 2 areas of strength for the Comprehensive Cancer Center. Over the years, they continued to support the fund through donations.
During Merle’s work on the advisory board, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. This experience, among others, led Merle and Larry to consider how they might support charities in their will.
“After looking at several different causes, we eventually decided there was no better place for us to give a portion of our estate than to cancer research at the Comprehensive Cancer Center,” Merle says.
Ruben Mesa, MD, FACP, president of Atrium Health Levine Cancer and executive director of the Wake Forest Baptist Comprehensive Cancer Center, says investments like the Andrews Fund will help advance vital research.
“Our integrated Comprehensive Cancer Center is making a tremendous impact on the burden faced by those who suffer from breast cancer and brain tumors through world-class care and research on prevention, earlier detection, better treatments and survivorship care,” says Mesa.
Helping One and All
Their experience with cancer became even more personal last year when Larry was diagnosed with colon cancer. His care was directed by Gregory Waters, MD, a surgical oncologist who specializes in colon and rectal surgery, and Larry is now cancer free.
“The care could not have been better, just as we expected,” Merle says. “We knew the cancer center and how they treat patients, but it became very real for us with Larry.”
In designating a part of their estate to their cancer research fund, the couple believes they can help others, many they may never know.
“I hope our gift will help people in our community, maybe someone in my family, maybe someone who’s not even been born yet,” Merle says. “Maybe someday they’ll be able to face cancer a little easier than my grandmother did, or my mother did or even Larry did. What better way to use your resources than to help people you know and those you don’t know fight this horrible disease.” Merle and Larry Andrews “I hope our gift will help people in our community, maybe someone in my family, maybe someone who’s not even been born yet,” Merle says. “Maybe someday they’ll be able to face cancer a little easier than my grandmother did, or my mother did or even Larry did."