Group offers help to women facing life-threatening illness

Lindsay Marciniak
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A small, cozy second floor apartment on Massachusetts Avenue is Lindsay Marciniak's retreat. She moved to Indianapolis a young, single, professional with a new job at Kiwanis. But within her first year in Indianapolis, she faced an unexpected and unwelcome setback. Lindsay was just 30 years old when she was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer last January.

Lindsay lost her hair during the aggressive chemotherapy. She decided to have a double mastectomy.

"It was an extreme surgery. I did reconstruction immediately after the mastectomy," Marciniak said. Afterwards she was weak and sore. She tried to muscle through with fun wigs and optimism but admits it was a lot.

"I initially felt that I could handle it all, but throughout this process if I have learned nothing else it's that we all have a finite amount that we can do and asking for help and drawing upon the help and strength of others is something we need to do in life, cancer or no cancer." Lindsay said.

Lindsay learned about IWIN-Indiana Women in Need through a cancer support group. She learned the small grassroots foundation was established to provide services for people just like her. Lindsay says she was worrying about simple chores that weren't getting done.

"When you are thinking about all of the things you know, the medical bills, the doctors' appointments, you know, juggling work and sickness and your own personal wellness where cleaning and other things like it fit in is very, very small in the scale and to be able to take some of that away is really help," Lindsay said.

Lindsay applied for and was awarded an IWIN grant. IWIN paid Sabrina Patterson and her company, Breathless Cleaning Services, to clean Lindsay's home. IWIN has awarded grants in 91 Indiana counties. The requests have come from 19- to 90-year-olds and vary greatly.

"We provide child care, in home pet care, yard maintenance, shoveling snow; if you need your carpets cleaned, we purchase gas cards, grocery cards, restaurant cards and we are a foundation for all over the state," said Kim Brinegar, the IWIN program director.

IWIN has hired Breathless Cleaning for three central Indiana patients. Patterson is a student at IUPUI and says these clients give her perspective. "I get a sense of service. I believe so often we lose sight of just being there to serve other people just human beings. We are so busy, all of us. It's nice to step back and stop and say, 'hey, you know what, this person has a need, and it's very simple and it takes very little time and it's something I can do to brighten their day or ease their mood,' I feel like it's the least that we can do. We wish we could do more."

Lindsay is wrapping up her last treatment this week. And she was so happy with Sabrina, she is picking up the tab to keep her coming back.

"It made such a great impact than I could have ever imagined knowing that I didn't have to worry about cleaning my house especially after my surgery where physically I was limited to do that. It was incredible to know that it was one less thing to worry about. When I was going through all of my treatments everyone was saying how strong I was and how inspirational I was and quite honestly I didn't feel that I was particularly strong and inspirational. I was just doing what I needed to do to get through every day. While being a cancer survivor is now a very strong part of my identity it's not all that makes me who I am. In order to say thanks, I would just say thank you for allowing us to retain a sense of normalcy in the world, allowing people like me to be women first and to continue the lives that we were living before the diagnosis of cancer."

IWIN started serving women with breast cancer in 2001. It has now served over 2,000 women in 91 of the 92 Indiana counties. The largest fundraiser is the Pink Pajama Party tomorrow night at the Marriott North. That event is sold out, but donations are needed year round.

Women seeking services must apply for grant here.