A CHANCE TO EXHALE
While on the phone with Michelle's Love Founder Andy McCandless, Wilsonville mother Tori Moore began listing off the benefits — a fresh start, easing financial stress and the ability to afford after-school programs for her three children — that a new apartment in Sherwood would yield.
Since she was diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time in February, Moore has spent her waking hours shuffling to appointments, staying afloat at work while battling lethargy and sickness, and keeping her three children happy and healthy — all while living paycheck-to-paycheck.
In just 48 hours, the apartment deposit was due. And Moore couldn't afford it.
But as Moore talked, McCandless wrote a check for the full deposit amount. Soon after, the apartment was secured.
"My mom's been in tears. I've been in tears," Moore said. "It's the first really big, amazing thing that has happened to me in a bit.
"We needed this really badly."
Michelle's Love — which provides assistance to single parents undergoing cancer treatment — paid for Moore's apartment deposit, a few months of rent, a cleaning service to tidy up her old apartment and to fix her car's breaks, and helped her move from the old apartment to the new one.
"We provide meals, we clean their homes and we pay their rent or mortgage when they go into treatment. Those are the three things that everybody needs," McCandless said.
McCandless started a charity in Arizona after her best friend Michelle Singleton, who raised four children alone, lost a fight with cancer. Then, McCandless moved to Oregon and started the Michelle's Love nonprofit organization.
"Watching her (Michelle) be sick and noticing that there weren't a lot of organizations that provided day-to-day necessities ... those programs, house cleaning, paying rent, mortgage and providing meals allows them to focus on getting better and taking care of their kids," McCandless said.
Like Michelle, Moore needed help.
After losing her hair during chemotherapy, Moore began undergoing radiation in September. During chemotherapy, she often could only work three days a week and, during the worst spells, could hardly work at all. While her paychecks dwindled, she paid $1,500 a month in rent.
Though she said her first bout with cancer contributed to a divorce, Moore said the second time around has been harder. She simultaneously feels demoralized and the need to project positivity.
"I'm older. It's more upsetting because I did so much the first time around and to get it again, it's like ... 'Really?'" Moore said. "You don't want anyone to not feel comfortable. You don't want to whine and complain. You're just trying to lead a normal life when you feel sick all the time."
Along with exhaustion and a persistent feeling of being weighed down, Moore compares her vision to looking through a fishbowl. She said food tastes like metal and she's dealt with pain in her fingers and toes.
And keeping her employer happy has been a struggle.
"The first time around things went well and they were helping out," she said. "Everyone I think is getting sick of my (inconsistent) schedule. It's been difficult."
Moore is nearing the end of radiation treatment and then will have to take medication for a while afterward.
"She'll have treatment forever. That's what people don't realize for cancer," McCandless said. "You'll always be doing some form of preventative maintenance."
The move, from one upstairs apartment to another, took about 3.5 hours. And McCandless and Michelle's Love volunteers took Moore out to lunch afterward.
The new apartment costs $400 a month less than the old one and is closer to Moore's children's schools and friends. With some extra money saved up, Moore plans to enroll her daughter in an after-school art class and one of her sons in a robotics class. Plus, she can better afford the necessities.
"There's so many things I don't do, skimp on and don't buy. Groceries, snacks they (her children) would like to have in the house," Moore said. "Mainly having a roof over my head and food and kids taken care of ... that's everything to me."
Moore isn't the only one who has enjoyed the new apartment.
"The kids are thrilled," Moore said. "They just are having so much fun decorating and unpacking."
"To be able to provide for them is huge."
Michelle's Love assists about seven Oregon parents a month and operates mainly from grants and donations. For more information, visit www.michelleslove.org/.