Earlier this year, when Linda Persiani discovered that her cancer, a rare form of lymphoma, had recurred, her husband Mark jumped into action, taking over all of her usual household duties, so she could focus completely on her treatment.
But he's not alone in his efforts. The Dundalk couple has reached out to friends and family to establish a network of support to help them navigate treatment, and to manage their lives during a difficult time.
Eric Landers, who co-owns Landers Cleaning Co. with his wife, Becki, is part of that group.
As part of the company's association with Cleaning for a Reason, a Texas-based nonprofit that connects women undergoing cancer treatment with local companies willing to donate their cleaning services, Landers cleans the Persianis' home once a month, at no charge.
"What a blessing," says Mark Persiani, about Landers' help. "They do a tremendous job and I can count on Eric and his people coming in and making sure the house smells, looks and is clean. It has made a world of difference."
A former Marine who started cleaning professionally in high school, Eric Landers said helping cancer patients and their caregivers is a cause close to his heart. In 2011, he lost his sister Katie to cancer.
"My mother is an oncology nurse who administers chemotherapy, and she took time off when my sister was going through treatment to take care of her," says Landers. "Watching firsthand, you know how hard it is going through treatment for a patient and caregiver. The patient doesn't have the time and energy to clean and the caregiver is exhausted from taking care of them. I just wanted to help in any way possible."
"When you get the diagnosis, your whole world is turned upside down," says Debbie Sardone, the founder of Cleaning for a Reason. "The strenuous work of trying to clean your house is almost impossible. For some women, it's out of the question."
Sardone explains that her organization fits into a large network of nonprofits that work to help women with cancer.
"There are a lot of fabulous causes out there raising millions of dollars for research that will help women with cancer in 20 years. But women dealing with the diagnosis right now need their bathroom clean — and they need it today. It's practical help," she says.
Cleaning for a Reason will celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2016; since its launch, the organization has coordinated cleaning for over 18,000 women, working with about 1,200 cleaning companies throughout the U.S. and Canada, including about a dozen around the Baltimore area.
Eric Landers says that in addition to donating his time, his company pays a monthly membership fee to belong to the Cleaning for a Reason network, money that helps fund the organization's outreach and operations. He said he wishes he could do even more to promote the cause.
"More people need to know about Cleaning for a Reason," he says. "Most of our [Cleaning for a Reason] clients had no idea, once they were diagnosed with cancer, what to do and where to start. They had no path to take — and that includes finding resources like Cleaning for a Reason."
Women cancer patients and their caregivers can sign up to benefit from the organization's services through its website. Patients complete the application and submit a physician-certified verification of treatment. After the application is accepted – which happened within a day for Mark and Linda Persiani – Cleaning for a Reason connects the patient with a local company, like Landers Cleaning. For the Persianis, Landers Cleaning will clean once a month for four months, at no charge.
Linda Persiani is currently undergoing chemotherapy and preparing for a bone marrow transplant.
"As she takes this increased dosage of chemo, we anticipate a loss of strength and overwhelming tiredness," says her husband. "She can't do anything — and nor should she have to. She's not responsible for anything more except holding onto enough strength to eat and fight the cancer."
The couple remains positive. "We have to take life one day at a time and live to the fullest," he says. "My wife and I are going through this journey with joy in a difficult time because we are so grounded by a support team."
For more information about Landers Cleaning, visit landerscleaning.com or call 443-388-0260. For more information about Cleaning for a Reason, visit cleaningforareason.org.