Erin didn’t feel sick. The 39-year-old public health nurse, wife, and mother of two ate well and exercised. She wasn’t at high risk for cancer. But one day, she felt something unusual in her breast. And, after a series of doctor’s appointments and tests, she got the phone call every woman dreads. It was her doctor, calling to tell her she had breast cancer.
“I felt the earth shake when I heard the news,” said Erin. “I was in shock, and really, really scared.”
Chemotherapy came first…18 weeks of it. She lost her hair, but was able to keep working. Surgery was next, and then radiation, five days a week. Working was no longer possible. She was exhausted all of the time and the chemicals coursing through her body turned her skin a yellowish hue.
Early in her treatment, Erin heard about Project Angel Heart’s program from a friend. At first she was reluctant to apply, but her husband, Andy, urged her to fill out the application. A flight nurse, Andy worked 24-hour shifts, and he worried that Erin wouldn’t have the strength to prepare meals for herself or their daughters when he was away. A few weeks later, they got a call from Project Angel Heart, and meals for Erin and the girls began arriving at their home.
“I didn’t even fully understand how much [the meals] would help until they started showing up,” said Erin. “I don’t know what we would have done without them.”
Erin credits the meals with helping her maintain a healthy weight throughout her treatment. And she loved being able to give her daughters nutritious meals, something that had always been important to her, even when she felt awful and had no energy to cook.
“I definitely got more protein, which I needed, than I would have otherwise,” said Erin. “And the girls were eating healthy food, which reduced my stress.”
Erin and her family are grateful for the personal touches that accompanied their Project Angel Heart meals. The girls loved seeing the artwork on their meal bags (meals are delivered in meal bags decorated by volunteers). And Erin was especially touched when, during the week of her 40th birthday, she received a birthday cake and handwritten card with her meal delivery. “I totally started tearing up,” said Erin. “I was not expecting that at all.”
Now that Erin’s treatments have ended and life is starting to return to normal, the family is thinking about ways that they can give back as volunteers. The girls are already helping out by decorating meal bags for other Project Angel Heart clients.
“It didn’t occur to me how much of a difference it would make in our lives,” said Erin. “I’ll look back on this and know that part of the reason I did so well was having nutritious meals.”