Concerned about keeping her daughter in preschool so that she would be out of the house as Harris endured the side effects of treatment, Harris sought help from several organizations — among them, Don't be a Chump, Check for a Lump; Three Little Birds; the American Cancer Society; and FMCancer.org — that were able to raise enough money for preschool tuition.

Desperate to give her kids a happy Christmas last year — "If this was going to be my last Christmas with my children, then I wanted it to be the best," Harris said — she was floored by the help from the nonprofit Happily Ever After League, which hosted rooms where she and her kids could "shop" for presents. The group Singleton Moms connected Harris with a sponsor family that brought dozens of gifts.

Singleton Moms, which serves the Phoenix metro area, is a rare group specifically serving single parents with cancer by providing bare necessities, such as laundry detergent and toilet paper, as well as money for bills and events for parents and kids to give some sense of normalcy.

Executive Director Jody Farley-Berens helped found the organization after her friend, Michelle Singleton, a 42-year-old single mother of four, died of breast cancer in 2005. She noticed how the stress of day-to-day responsibilities and the constant threat of having the lights turned off had left her friend exhausted.

Many of the single moms she has met lost their jobs and homes after their cancer diagnosis, putting tremendous pressure on their families.

"I've seen a lot of kids that are very angry, and it manifests as anger toward their parent," Farley-Berens said. "They're mad that they can't be like other kids and be on a soccer league or karate because mom is too sick to take them there, or they can't afford it."

The charity has been "a total godsend" to Holloway, who was already on a strict budget and cutting coupons when she was diagnosed. Holloway is pursuing a degree is social work.

Her kids have taken on more responsibility now that she can't do it all, Holloway said, a mixed blessing because "you want kids to be kids." But they've been her biggest supporters.

"It brought us even closer together, but it also brought them a reality that life is not promised," Holloway said of the cancer journey. "You have to live well and do the best you can with the time you have."

aelejalderuiz@tribune.com