Lyon Family Foundation supports pediatric cancer patients and families

Comer Playroom
Comer Playroom

Updated May 2024

Over many years of partnership, University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital and the Lyon Family Foundation have worked to meet the needs of young patients navigating cancer diagnosis and treatment.

By establishing Lyon Family Foundation Patient Assistance Fund and supporting the expansion of the Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Oncology Psychology Program, the foundation helps Comer physicians and staff set patients up for success throughout their cancer journey.

The patient assistance fund supports a social worker with a case load of 20-30 patients per month, including both patients in active cancer treatment and recent survivors. The social worker can use the fund to help patients cover the cost of prescriptions that their insurance does not cover or to help where the cost of prescription is burdensome, even with insurance, relieving significant mental and financial stressors.

Through the Lyon’s Way initiative, the foundation supports a full-time psychologist for patients in the AYA Oncology Program. Thousands of children, adolescents, and young adults are diagnosed with cancer each year. A cancer diagnosis can have a profound impact on both the short- and long-term mental health of a young person, leading to anxiety, depression, and other symptoms that exacerbate cancer’s physical impact.

Ilayna Mehrtens, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience, works with adolescents, young adults, and their families to help them cope with cancer diagnoses and treatments.

Because of Dr. Mehrtens’s background in pediatric psychology and training in AYA oncology, she is uniquely skilled to support young parents as they navigate their personal diagnosis, treatment, and parenting.

When a child or young adult is diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening illness, the patient and their families are faced with many difficult decisions. These patients undergo life-saving treatments—such as chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery—that unfortunately can also cause infertility by damaging reproductive organs and causing scarring that affects reproductive function. The risk of infertility increases with age of treatment and cumulative dose of radiation or chemotherapy. The foundation supports the Fertile Hope program at Comer Children’s, which provides fertility education, counseling, and preservation to pediatric and AYA patients at risk of treatment-related infertility.

The Lyon Family Foundation and UChicago Medicine share common goals for the wellbeing of young cancer patients. “Our goal was to partner with an organization that is taking a whole systems approach to healthcare delivery—working to improve the life of the patient, not only treating cancer,” said Executive Director Alexandra Lyon Singer, whose parents, Robert and Donna Lyon, established the Foundation in 2000. “We found that partner in Comer Children’s, and we look forward to seeing how a more holistic approach to cancer treatment will lead to better life outcomes.”

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