Margaret Pennington is every bit of the word “determined.”

An emergency room LPN at HCA Houston Healthcare Southeast in Pasadena, Texas, she was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2018 but vowed not to let it derail her goals for a second act in life. With support from her family, colleagues and our Hope Fund, Margaret is recovering from treatment and getting her life plans back on track.

For Margaret, the Hope Fund grant, funded by donations from colleagues across the organization, eased financial worries that accompanied her cancer diagnosis. As a mother of seven and grandmother of 15, she says the grant was a lifeline when she and her family needed it most.

“I’m so grateful to work for HCA Healthcare, because for me, this is like an enormous second family,” Margaret says. “Working with people who give simply because they know it will benefit a colleague in need is just a blessing.”

After advance screening found lumps in her breasts, biopsies confirmed Margaret’s fears: cancer. “It felt so unfair,” she says. “With a couple of children still living at home, I’d gone back to school to start planning for the next phase of life, to transition from LPN to RN. I didn’t want this to stop me.”

One of her first thoughts was how the diagnosis would affect her family financially. “We’re a two-paycheck family, and I didn’t have short- or long-term disability. I didn’t think I would ever need it. When I crunched the numbers and thought about the money I’d be losing while I didn’t work, it became overwhelming. I didn’t know if we’d face foreclosure or what would happen to my ability to continue schooling.”

Margaret’s manager encouraged her to apply for a Hope Fund grant, which is when she first learned of the colleague-supported charity.

“Emotionally, it was hard to ask for help because I always want to carry my own weight,” she says. “But the caring staff at the Hope Fund offered a lot of support. The website was also helpful for gathering information and answering my questions.”

Margaret underwent a double mastectomy in July 2018. Less than one month later, a Hope Fund grant allowed her to cover the mortgage, utilities and other expenses that likely would have gone unpaid.

“The grant was an answer to my prayers,” she says. “I was uplifted by the generosity of my HCA Healthcare colleagues.”

Margaret has returned to work— thankful for colleagues who helped her family with food, transportation and other necessities while she was out of work. She’s in continuing care and will undergo reconstructive surgery in the near future. Margaret also plans to continue her education.

“My family could have lost our home,” she says. “But in my darkest hour, my colleagues were my hope. They reached out and said I was going to be OK, and my family was going to be OK. I’m so grateful.”