(KMSP) - It's an unusually quiet Sunday afternoon at Lisa Neumen's house. Her three kids are with friends and family so she can rest. It's hard raising three kids as a single mom and working full time. If only that was all Lisa had to worry about.
Lisa shared a personal story with Fox 9 about something that happened the other night: "Sam [my son] looked at me and said, 'Mom I'm clearing the house of all the really big bad cancer monsters so they can't hurt you anymore.' And that makes me feel guilty because he's only four. And he doesn't understand."
Lisa is battling Hodgkin's Lymphona for the third time in six years. When you ask her how she's doing, her reply is almost always the same, "I'm ok, I guess."
By now, she's pretty good at downplaying her needs. She doesn't want to be a burden, so when people offer to help, she usually says no. Thanksfully, some refuse to listen.
Ginny Louden is a personal chef and busy mom of five. She is always in the kitchen.
"If my kids are looking for me they know where to come," Ginny says.
For the last few months, Ginny and her friends have been getting together and cooking for Lisa. They found out she was going through a hard time, and even though they don't know her all that well, they knew she was going through chemo and wanted to take a few meals off her plate. Ginny says, "We try to do 5-7 dinners.. we do a breakfast a dessert and sometimes side dishes depending on what's on the menu."
It's pretty impressive. A smooth system of prepping and packing dozens of meals in just a few short hours. But, there's a reason they make it look so easy. They've been doing this not just for Lisa and not just for the last few months, but for other families for the last several years. Ginny says, "We started with one family a month and have picked up little odd ones here and there.. you know we hear someone needs two meals and make a little extra."
Ginny, Debbie and Nikki have been friends for years. They started these 'cook-a-thons' in 2014 when their friends, the Thurbers, were balancing six kids and cancer.
"One of their children was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma. She was 10 years old. And we were looking at each other, well what can we do to help? We want to help, but what do we have to give? And I was like, 'I know how to cook'."
And so it began. With generous community donations of money and food, the three started cooking meals for the Thurbers. And before they knew it, their good deed turned into a nonprofit. They called it Food With Love. Ginny says, "Our friends needed our help and it just worked. And we realized it really was helping them."
Back at Lisa's house, the door bell rings. Lisa slowly makes her way to the entry way and says, "Hi come on in..."
At the door, Ginny and Nikki. They're here with home-cooked food, made with love. Hand delivering it to those who need it most, but are reluctant to ask. Lisa says they wouldn't take 'no' for an answer.
"She said, 'I would like to do this for you.This is the day we're cooking, does that work for you?' It took out every obstacle I could possibly come up with," Lisa said.
Ginny didn't have to wonder how she could help Lisa. She just gave it a little thought.
"I was like, I have five kids, what would be the hardest part for me? And since I cook all the time, if I couldn't cook for my kids I don't know what I would do," Ginny said.
It's a generous gesture of empathy, not just sympathy. The difference between offering to help and helping.
Lisa is overwhelmed. She's not one to get emotional, but can't stop the tears. "Just thank you.. like... I can't say thank you enough." Ginny is moved. She says, "I'm gonna hug you. I'm so glad that this helps." Lisa says, "It does. I can't even tell you how much.. like this weekend.. I'm so tired and I feel so crappy and not having to worry about it is just.. it's the little things really that make the biggest difference."
Because, life's most difficult challenges are a little easier to swallow when your stomach and your heart are full.
For more information about Food With Love, visit foodwithloveinc.org