For Michele Franklin, 55, her relationship with The Red Devils goes back eight years, after her third cancer diagnosis. She was initially diagnosed with breast cancer in 1994, and underwent a mastectomy in her right breast and received chemotherapy treatments. The cancer went into remission for five years, but came back in 1999 in both breasts. This time she received radiation and the cancer went into remission once more. In 2001, a tumor was found in her lymph nodes, and she started chemotherapy again. Michele’s cancer has been in remission since then, but she continues to receive chemotherapy.
As a result of years of chemotherapy treatments, Michele was diagnosed with Stiff Person’s Syndrome, a rare neurological disease that causes progressively severe muscle stiffness in the spine and lower extremities. The disease affects Michele’s legs, and some days she can’t even walk without a walker or a wheelchair. A former special education classroom aid and bank employee, Michele has been unable to work for six years, and is currently receiving Social Security disability payments.
Michele developed a relationship with Deb Kirkland, her nurse coordinator at Northwest Hospital in Randallstown, Md. and confided in Deb that she was depressed and worried about providing for her young son. Deb arranged for The Red Devils to put money into Michele’s son’s account at Franklin Elementary School to pay for his school meals for an entire year. The Red Devils also gave Michele gift cards around the holidays to buy gifts for her son, and paid for him to attend summer camp for several years. For the past five years, The Red Devils has provided Michele with fresh, weekly meals through Moveable Feast and assisted with transportation to her chemotherapy treatments.
“[The Red Devils] helped me a great deal because of my disability, and some of the things that I can’t provide, they provide for me,” Michele says. Whenever she’s struggling, Michele calls Deb. “Deb would always help me, she would always come through—she just helped me with everything I needed,” Michele says.