Cleaning for Cancer Patients

Jim Segal remembers when his wife, Cheryl, was stricken with breast cancer over 10 years ago.

He remembers the sheer physical and mental effort required to fight the disease, and how everything else went by the wayside, including the spotless home that was once a source of pride for Cheryl.

"It was very hard for her," recalled Segal, the father of two grown children. "Between the doctor visits, the treatments, and trying to keep a positive attitude and live a normal life, we didn't' have time to worry about the house. We were just trying to survive."

Breast cancer took Cheryl's life in 2000. Recently, when the New England region of The Maids, a house cleaning service, began a free cleaning service for cancer patients, it was easy for Segal, who owns the local franchise, to buy in.

"I know first-hand how cancer can take over your life," said Segal, a Marlborough resident. "Everything else becomes secondary. When you have cancer, it's all about attitude and taking the focus off the disease."

The new campaign, part of a national initiative called "Cleaning for a Reason," provides four free monthly house cleanings for women with cancer. The value of the four visits, depending on the size of the home, ranges from $600 to $800.

Segal said the first cleaning is typically longer so that the house is brought up to a new standard of cleanliness. Subsequent cleanings take between 45 and 90 minutes, and crews will stay a maximum of two hours.

The Maids teams, who arrive in a trademark yellow car, will clean sinks, appliances, cabinets and counters in the kitchen; disinfect toilets and tubs, straighten up rooms, dust furniture and windowsills, vacuum and provide a total of 22 separate cleaning services during their visit. They bring their own cleaning supplies.

Along with The Maids, 281 cleaning companies nationwide are participating in the program, which is run by the Cleaning for a Reason Foundation.

The Maids includes 150 franchises around the US and Canada. Segal's territory includes Marlborough, Hudson and communities inside a triangular-shaped area stretching from Worcester to Weston. He is part of a New England-based co-op of franchise owners who banded together to participate in Cleaning for a Reason. His four Marlborough-based teams clean about 250 homes.

Along with providing the free cleaning, Segal is working on another program to help his staff, many of them recent immigrants, learn English and work skills. But Cleaning for a Reason is closest to his heart.

"Medical help, a good house environment and support from friends all can help someone beat cancer," Segal said. "In a nice clean house they can feel better about themselves."

"The main thing is that having a clean house takes one added stress off their life," he added.

Cancer patients, their family members and friends can find out more about Cleaning for a Reason by calling Segal at The Maids at 508-460-1551 or by calling the national Cleaning for a Reason organization at 877-337-3348. The web site is