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Cleaners aid women with cancer
When Stephanie Myers began chemotherapy last spring, she didn't think keeping up with chores would be a problem.
She soon realized she was mistaken.
"You are pretty exhausted," Myers said. "Your mind thinks you can do things, but your body isn't working with it."
She heard from her brother-in-law about someone who used the Texas-based Cleaning for a Reason Foundation. Myers had never heard of the program, which offers free professional housecleaning services to women undergoing chemotherapy.
With the help of Ericka Pelechowicz, the only listed cleaner for Yuba-Sutter, the advanced breast cancer patient was soon watching some of her stress and struggle scrubbed right out of her Gridley home.
"They cleaned everything, from the blinds to the ceiling fans, folding laundry, emptying and filling the dishwasher," Myers said. "I think they would have pulled weeds if I needed them to."
Pelechowicz, who runs a small, environmentally friendly cleaning business, partnered with Cleaning for a Reason a year ago. She cleans each home once a month for four months during the course of a woman's chemotherapy.
"Cleaning has always been my ministry, and who I am and what I do," Pelechowicz said. "This gives me the perfect outlet to direct my ministry to do something precious."
Cancer patients are not the only ones who benefit from the service, she said.
"At the end of the day, seeing how strong these women are, I think I get more out of it," Pelechowicz said. "They are inspirational."
On Thursday, Browns Valley resident Penny Ermey sat tucked out of the way on her sofa, while Pelechowicz and her pink-shirted crew dusted behind the TV, ran a damp cloth over light switches and got on their hands and knees to scrub dirt from corners.
"Housecleaning is not my favorite thing," Ermey admitted.
But like most people, she always found a way to get it done, even after her breast cancer diagnosis four years ago and the lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation that followed.
In August, a seizure and resulting exams revealed her cancer had metastasized, causing a brain tumor and lesions in her lungs.
Ermey underwent surgery and radiation. But now she is in the midst of more chemo, which drains her energy and abilities beyond minimal maintenance.
"It gets to be so overwhelming, you don't do it," she said.
Ermey focuses her fight on her cancer but can't always ignore what is not getting done.
"The hidden dust bunnies, you can tell they are my nemesis," Ermey said. "It drives you crazy a little bit."
She found it difficult to describe her gratitude Thursday as Pelechowicz and her helpers wiped baseboards, scrubbed toilets and wiped fingerprints from doors and windows.
When Marcos Gonzalez heard about what Pelechowicz was doing, he immediately wanted to help. The owner of Ultimate Building Maintenance in Yuba City plans to donate a home carpet cleaning to each client.
"Your carpet is like a filter, and all the dirt stays in it," he said. "With all the struggles that they're going through, I think it helps to be in a clean environment."
Yuba City massage therapist Brenda Banducci works with many cancer patients through her Excellent Massage Care business and said the therapy is great for circulation and the lymphatic system. It also has emotional benefits, so she decided to donate two 30-minute sessions to each patient.
"A lot of times when we get sick, we feel like we are not even human," she said. "I want them to feel whole. I want them to feel that they are no less of a person because they've had things removed from their body or are going to have things removed."
Jennifer Ferrini, owner of Image Salon & Day Spa, was also moved to help, knowing the emotional roller coaster cancer is for her clients. She decided a free haircut and color was something she could do to boost spirits after chemotherapy.
"Your hair is your identity, so to speak. And self-confidence is always very low when you are going through something like that," she said. "We just want to do anything we can to build that back up."
Ermey held back tears Thursday when Pelechowicz handed her the bundle of certificates and explained the community's generosity.
"There are a lot of good people out there that help people in my situation," she said. "Every little bit helps."
Cleaning for a Reason is limited by the number of cleaners who volunteer, and there is no shortage of woman requesting housework help, Pelechowicz said. She would love to see other cleaners come forward to offer services.
CONTACT reporter Ashley Gebb at 749-4724.