Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 15/2/2011 (3774 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
At 34, Brigit Grewal is on the young side for a breast cancer diagnosis.
In early summer, the married mother of three young children felt a lump in her breast. She went to her doctor the next day and was assured there was probably nothing to worry about.
"I was young. I had breastfed three children. I wasn't a high risk."
She waited a month for an ultrasound and then a biopsy.
"I was diagnosed on July 14. I have a very rare type of breast cancer, one of the faster-growing ones."
And with that, the Maples woman watched her world tilt sideways. On July 30, she had a mastectomy. She might still face another mastectomy, maybe a hysterectomy as well.
Chemotherapy and then radiation began. She lost her long hair and weakened.
Meanwhile, there were her kids, Paige, Jillian and Josh to look out for. Her husband Sony did his best to pick up all the pieces but he works full-time. The couple has no family in Winnipeg.
"I was on two different (cancer) treatments. You're so sick. I could barely walk."
That's when she heard about Cleaning for a Reason (www.cleaningforareason.org), a North American program designed to offer free housecleaning to women living with cancer for four months. Three local cleaning companies are part of the program.
"I've always kind of felt as a business, we have to give back to the community," says Joanna Palumbo, owner of Signature Cleaning Services.
"It means you can focus on your health and not focus on your cleaning."
The service is free to women who are accepted. They have to prove their illness by submitting a letter from their doctors.
Not every woman can be accommodated. Many cleaning companies have small staffs. Palumbo has seven women on staff and two teams running full-time. She and her team look after two women, once a month.
"We come and these women are so grateful. When you meet some of the women and they have small children, it just breaks your heart."
Brigit Grewal was one of those women. She and Sony had taught their children basic household tasks to help out. There's a limit to what you can ask kids under the age of 10 to do. Wipe the kitchen table, yes. Scrub the toilet, no.
"You want them to still be kids," she says. "We had to cancel so many of their extracurricular activities. We went down to one income. My husband could only be in so many places at the same time."
Grewal was in the process of changing jobs when she was diagnosed. She had EI for 15 weeks but that's run out.
"When I heard of this program for ladies with cancer I jumped at it. It was a simple process. I just wish they could come more than once a month."
Her cleaning sessions are now over.
"I cried the last time. I wish I could afford them but I can't."
Grewal says it's almost impossible to explain how much the service meant to her.
"You feel so bad. You just want that normalcy. You feel like the kids can come and the house is clean again. It's been hard to make lunches or help with homework. When this is taken care of, when you know your home is virus-free and you won't get sick from touching something you just feel better."
Because Grewal says she wants what any mother does.
"You still want to be a mom. You want to bake chocolate chip cookies. You don't want to tell your young kids you have cancer."
Grewal is already mourning the loss of her cleaning team but she knows they're helping another woman now.
In a fair world, she would have had them for the course of her treatment.
In a fair world she wouldn't have needed them at all.