How does a single mom survive parenting alone while also coping with cancer



Parenting alone can be a tough journey when one doesn’t feel well. Most single parents continue to go to work when they don’t feel well, so they can save their sick days for when their children are sick. But what happens when they face life-threatening illnesses such as cancer?

I know there were a few times in my single-parent life when I got sick, but I never had to be hospitalized or faced a life-threatening situation. I would like to think that had that happened, my church family would have stepped up and helped. But do churches do that for single parents?

I know of one single mom who faced cancer. She had a four-year-old child. During her cancer, she came to faith in Christ as our church reached out to her. When she found out the cancer was terminal, she reached out to me more than she called on her non-Christian family. Here are some things our church group did for her:

  • We went to her house and visited with her.
  • Sometimes we sat with her without saying a word. Just our presence helped.
  • We brought fun things to the house for her daughter, such as ice cream to eat. My friend couldn’t eat ice cream, but she enjoyed watching her daughter get excited that she had ice cream to eat and she had someone to eat it with her.
  • Sometimes I read the Bible to her.
  • At one point, she asked me to help her plan her own funeral. She wanted a Christian funeral, and her family couldn’t comprehend what that would look like.
  • When she went into the hospital toward the end of her life, she liked for me to come and sing her favorite praise songs to her.
  • The nurses said her blood pressure always lowered and she became calm when I sang her favorite praise songs.
  • After she went into a coma, the hospital called me one time and asked me to come in and sing “her songs” to her.

Another friend who has cancer told me about the good things Christian friends have done for her.

  • They have brought in meals.
  • One older lady, who is not a member of her church, has come and picked her up and taken her to her chemo treatments.
  • It has been comforting to get close to one lady who has survived breast cancer and encouraged her to keep moving forward with treatment.

However, she also said some things that concerned me. Here is her story.

I was OK with everything until the cancer and the cancer treatment got bad.

One Sunday, I forgot to wear my wrap on my head to church. After that, the hugs I used to get turned into handshakes.

I did not live close to where my church was, so I felt like when I really needed help, I lived too far away for anyone to come and help me.

They would ask my kids how I was doing when I was not at church, but no one would call to make sure I was OK.

I was told my oldest daughter should not be taking care of me when I was sick, but when both of us tried to call for help to take me to the hospital, no one could help.

My daughter had to call her big sister from the Big Brothers Big Sisters program to come and help get me to the hospital.

I also asked for people to come and just visit me, so I could just get my mind off the pain I was going through.

I also asked them to come and visit me when I was in the hospital and to bring my kids to see me while I was there.

She went on to say she knew it was not up to the church family to do all of these things, but it sure would help if they could just encourage her.

I’m not writing this blog to make anyone feel guilty but to hopefully make you think. How do single parents survive when they have life-threatening illnesses? They can’t do it alone, and what an opportunity to offer assistance in the name of Christ and through His family, the church!

I’m also not saying that only church leaders or children’s ministers should be the ones to reach out. However, a church leader can be the person who connects the ill single parent with someone in the church who understands or who has survived cancer or a similar illness.

What has your church done to assist a sick single parent?


This article is updated and adapted from an article originally published on the Kids & Divorce blog on March 13, 2015.

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2 thoughts on “How does a single mom survive parenting alone while also coping with cancer

  1. When I was going through my chemo (as a single mom) one of the greatest things someone did was come pick my daughter up and take her to church, to VBS. I was in the hospital and couldn’t get her there. She didn’t have to miss out because they were willing to take her. It also gave her some time away from the scary things that were going on and a chance to experience some “normal” kid time with her friends and church family. Many also brought meals and a few sent flowers to the hospital.

    Cancer is hard and it’s often a long battle. People jump at the chance to help in the beginning, but as time goes by they tend to forget or get busy. The families are still dealing with the hardships and it gets pretty lonely. A meal once a month, a card once a month, something over the long term…people can be there when others have moved on and forgotten.

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