LONDON, Ont. — Jennifer Malone has seen her life take a markedly different turn in recent months. She’s gone from being active and working as a server at a local casino to spending considerable time within the confines of her two-bedroom home.
Malone recently finished chemotherapy that began in mid-November to treat ovarian cancer, and it has taken a physical toll.
“My life has changed completely because I have no energy, with the chemo, you’re just sick all the time,” she said, dabbing away tears while sitting in the cosy front room of her home nestled on a quiet street in this southwestern Ontario city.
“From being a very active person and outgoing, you’re all of a sudden in a small, little environment because you can’t do anything.”
She was able to do housework in the past, but it became more challenging when she started chemotherapy.
“You’re just exhausted,” said Malone. “There’s no way I could have done it, but yet it’s ironic because that’s when you need it the most.”
“You’re supposed to be living in such a sterile environment and taking care of everything, and yet you’re not able to.”
Malone’s mother, Irene Taylor, saw an item in the newspaper that said General Cleaning Plus was running a free home cleaning day for female cancer patients and decided to register her daughter.
When two employees from the janitorial company paid a visit to Malone last fall, she had been recovering from surgery to remove a tumour from under her breast. Malone was amazed by their efforts.
“They made me feel comfortable in the house and they just took care of everything,” recalled the 52-year-old.
Malone ended up winning a grand prize draw for female cancer patients, receiving free home cleaning from the company for a year.
General Cleaning Plus, which serves residential and commercial clients in London and the surrounding areas, has partnered with the non-profit organization Cleaning For A Reason for the charitable endeavour.
Other professional cleaning services across North America have also teamed up with Cleaning For A Reason to offer free residential cleaning services to women undergoing cancer treatment.
General Cleaning Plus president Martha Harewood said she was motivated to get her company on board after losing a good friend to cancer.
She said many people have called her saying the service is a “godsend” in part because they don’t have anyone to help them to clean their homes.
“It’s not even so much the money, it’s just the help,” Harewood said.
“I’ve never heard anybody say ‘I can’t afford it.’ It’s just the gratitude of knowing that help is there, that they can have a clean home.”
Cleaning For A Reason is the brainchild of founder Debbie Sardone, owner of a cleaning service in Lewisville, Texas, north of Dallas.
Several years ago, Sardone received a call from a prospective client.
After receiving the price quote, the female caller told her that she wouldn’t be able to afford the service because she was undergoing cancer treatment and she hung up the phone before Sardone was able to get her number.
Sardone decided on a new policy for anyone in a similar position who contacted them. The company would give away free cleanings when they could or offer a substantial discount, said foundation executive director Mike Farney.
Sardone shared her story at a national maid service convention, and interest and support from cleaning business owners soon followed. After registering the foundation, she headed to the next convention and had businesses signing on.
The foundation now has 667 partners in North America, including 41 in seven Canadian provinces, with between 35 and 45 new companies signing up each month, Farney said.
The partners agree to offer four free monthly cleanings for a minimum of two patients at a time in addition to making a small financial contribution to the organization, Farney said. The foundation takes care of the applications, including reviewing doctor’s verification notes. Once the application is approved, they contact the local cleaning service in the woman’s area.
Despite the growth of the foundation, the need and demand are still great.
The foundation handles a maximum of 50 applications from Monday to Thursday when the application process opens up at noon Central Time on the foundation’s website. Since they accept about eight applications a minute once the process is activated, the maximum is typically reached within about six minutes.
Harewood said her company has 200 women on the waiting list and she is actively trying to get other cleaning services in the community on board.
“The more maid services that participate, then naturally the more women we can serve.”
In working with clients who have cancer, Harewood said they steer clear of using scented products, which can be an irritant for those living with the disease.
Farney said since the immune systems of women undergoing cancer treatment are usually low, they recommend to partners not to use of lot of heavy chemicals while cleaning.
General Cleaning Plus employee Lisa Bressette said she takes a little extra time to get to the hard-to-reach places, aware that often the client can’t do it herself.
She makes touch spots in the bathroom and kitchen a particular priority in an effort to keep any source for potential colds or infections at bay.
“Fatigue is one of the biggest things that cancer patients go through. And with that, you’re looking at a piece of dust on the floor for a week, and not only do you have fatigue, you’ve got stress because you can’t get down there and get that. So every time you walk by it, it just adds more anxiety.”
Harewood and her team get personal satisfaction from helping cancer patients.
“It’s very gratifying,” said Julien Verfaillie. “At the end of the job, you just feel really good that you’ve helped somebody out that needs it and they appreciate it.”
As for Jennifer Malone, she said the support from the service has been invaluable.
“It’s helped out on so many levels,” she said.
“It isn’t just the cleaning.”
On The Net: Cleaning For A Reason: www.cleaningforareason.org