WHEN YOU FIND OUT YOU HAVE CANCER, it may seem like the world screeches to a halt. But the responsibilities of parenthood don’t stop for a cancer diagnosis—especially for single parents who may not be able to rely on the help of a partner.

Michelle Singleton learned she had advanced breast cancer in July 2004 at age 30, just after she gave birth to her fourth child. A single mother, Singleton underwent chemotherapy, radiation and surgery to remove one breast, all while juggling the demands of raising four children under 14.


“She had to have all these doctors’ appointments and do all these things to basically save her life, but yet these four children still need to be taken care of,” says Jody Boyd, Singleton’s lifelong friend. Boyd and other friends supported Singleton by picking up essentials, like an extra bottle of laundry detergent, or doubling the recipe when they prepared dinner for their own families. Singleton also was unable to work, so her friends chipped in to help cover her bills.

Bare Necessities

The Singletons provide families with a monthly set of household essentials, such as body wash, hand soap, laundry detergent, paper towels and toilet paper. Executive director Jody Boyd notes personal hygiene and paper products are not covered by the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which low-income families often rely on to cover grocery bills.

When Singleton died in October 2005, the friends’ focus broadened to others encountering similar challenges at home during treatment. They decided to assist single parents diagnosed with cancer by providing them with household staples and financial support. Since becoming a nonprofit organization in November 2006, the Singletons have worked with local oncology patient navigators to connect with more than 1,000 single-parent families in the Phoenix area.

Once a month, families pick up meal kits and household products at the nonprofit’s community center, where they also can socialize with others facing similar circumstances. Additionally, the organization offers financial assistance, ranging from gas cards to utility stipends.

Family Dinner

The Singletons distribute meal kits so parents don’t have to spend time worrying about what’s for dinner.

“There’s so much need, and I want to make sure that we’re providing them with all the resources we can,” says Boyd, the nonprofit’s executive director.

Thomas Celona is the associate editor for Cancer Today.