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'The peace to recover'

Nonprofit Michelle's Love aims to simplify life for single parents with cancer

TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Pamela OHare and Andy McCandless have formed a fast friendship in the months since OHare became involved with Michelles Love. Shortly after she was diagnosed with breast cancer this past March, West Linn resident Pamela O’Hare received a call from a social worker at her doctor’s office.

O’Hare had filled out an intake questionnaire at the office, and marked “yes” under a section that asked if she had financial concerns. As she adjusted to her new reality, O’Hare — a mother of two young children — said her head was “in all kinds of places.”

Doctor’s appointments. Cancer. Kids. Work. How was she going to balance it all?

As she was returning from a round of blood tests, O’Hare took that call from the social worker.

“Pam,” the social worker said. “Call Michelle’s Love right now. She has a space for you.”

Michelle’s Love, as O’Hare soon learned, is a nonprofit run by Scappoose resident Andy McCandless. Formed in 2011, the organization provides financial assistance for single mothers who are undergoing treatment for cancer. O’Hare, as it turned out, was a perfect candidate.

“What we do is provide financial assistance that goes directly towards utility bills, rentals, mortgage, doctor bills, anything that’s stressing them out,” McCandless said. “We don’t give our moms cash; we get on the phone with PGE and Northwest Natural Gas and we pay those bills directly. We provide easy to prepare meals from Dream Dinners, and we clean houses.”

SUBMITTED PHOTO: ANDY MCCANDLESS  - Volunteer Cindy Roberts cleans the shower of a mother and cancer patient, part of the services through Michelle's Love.

Michelle’s Love is named after McCandless’ best friend, Michelle Singleton, a single mother who died of cancer in 2005. McCandless started the nonprofit in Arizona under a different name before moving to Oregon in 2011, at which point she created Michelle’s Love.

“A lot of cancer charities are research-based, and in the meantime people need help,” McCandless said. “So that’s kind of where it came from ... I found a mom who was single at the place where Michelle got chemo treatments at, and me and some friends and family got together to help her out, and it kind of snowballed from that.”

In running Michelle’s Love, McCandless is dedicated to “keeping it small.”

“We help up to six or seven moms at a time, max, and I really want to do quality versus quantity,” McCandless said.

That means providing about $500 a month to single mothers or fathers, generally for a duration of five or six months while patients go through the treatment process. The idea is to take care of life’s most basic problems while patients focus on conquering their illness.

“As long as you have food and your bills are paid, you don’t really need anything,” McCandless said. “That’s what Michelle’s Love is all about. It’s not about wants, it’s about needs.”

“That gives you the peace to recover,” O’Hare said. “It relieves the stress so your body can heal itself.”

McCandless is also adamant that an individual’s financial situation is irrelevant when it comes to Michelle’s Love. When O’Hare first contacted McCandless, she said she didn’t want to receive help at the expense of someone who might need it more.

McCandless’ answer was simple.

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Volunteer Dawn Pec cleans the oven of a Michelle's Love mom.

“Just because you have your (stuff) together, doesn’t mean you don’t need help,” she told O’Hare.

And indeed, O’Hare’s work hours have dropped dramatically to accommodate her treatment — making her comfortable lifestyle decidedly less so.

“You’re not working, and that’s not because you’re not trying,” McCandless said. “You’re not working because of cancer. ... We pay your bills no matter your financial bracket or class. We don’t discriminate against that.”

And thus, as O’Hare continues her journey through treatment, she can do so with an enhanced peace of mind. “It keeps us on track,” she said. “It keeps me from derailing.”

Find out more at michelleslove.org or 503-459-1245

Patrick Malee can be reached at 503-636-1281 Ext. 106 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..