Cancer. Few words carry as much weight as this one.

For Laura, it’s a word that currently qualifies one of her cherished titles: no longer is she simply a “mom,” she’s now a “cancer mom.” At age threeLaura’s daughter, Claire, was diagnosed with an extremely rare and aggressive brain cancer. Her son was born just three months prior.  

Laura and her husband watched as chemo took its toll on their toddler: Claire was in immense pain, she couldn’t walk, talk, or eat, and she lost more than 10% of her body weight. Laura didn’t leave the hospital for up to eleven days at a time, comforting Claire, while still nursing her newborn. It was a juggling act that left little time for life’s typical demands.  

“When a family has a child that’s diagnosed with a critical illness, everything becomes overwhelming for them,” says Paula DuPré Pesmen, Executive Director of There With Care, one of Community Food Share’s 40 Partner Agencies. The non-profit provides holistic support to families with critically ill children like Claire: grocery and meal delivery; housecleaning and laundry service; accounting and legal guidance; babysitting and mentoring for siblings; and transportation to and from appointments and treatments.  

With more than a year of intensive chemotherapy and radiation, and each infusion lasting six hours, Laura went from working mom to home nurse. Growing from a family of three to four had already been an adjustment; suddenly she and her husband were also transitioning to a single income. Time and energy became limited — so did their budget.   

Laura shared, “I didn’t even know what I needed. But There With Care knew.” Using food provided by Community Food Share, their volunteers delivered supplemental groceries and Crock-Pot meals weekly. In Laura’s words, “Any sense of normalcy…is so meaningful to us. If I can just put a Crock-Pot meal in and then spend time with my family instead of cooking, instead of grocery shopping, it means the world to me.” 

Laura told There With Care that their grocery and meal delivery shined some light on [their] dark journey.” If we could remove the word “cancer” from every family’s vocabulary, we would. Thanks to supporters like you, we at least have the honor of providing comfort through the incredible work of our partner, There With Care.   

This story originally appeared in our Winter 2020 Newsletter. Photo courtesy of There With Care.