Helping hands

. February 1, 2013.

A diagnosis of cancer is terrifying. Imagine what it would feel like if it were your child who faced that dread disease. The Ronald McDonald House in Ann Arbor makes sure no child has to experience this challenge without the loving company of their parents. Every year, more than 600 families of children hospitalized with serious illnesses stay at Ronald McDonald House for anywhere from a day to several months, for a nominal daily fee.

Larry Eiler is a big supporter of the Ronald McDonald House of Ann Arbor. He helped establish the House’s annual golf fundraiser and served on the board of directors. “I like to give back to other people. I learned that from my mother when I was 12,” says Eiler, an Ann Arbor resident. “My mother ran a cub scout troop for boys with cerebral palsy. We would help them do work to earn merit badges.

Helping others

Eiler and his wife, the parents of seven children, pop in several times a year to whip up a special dinner for the families staying at the House. “There are so many people there who need someone to talk to, to be compassionate, who understand their issues,” he explains.

Moving forward

Eiler understands only too well what it feels like to hear your loved one has cancer. He wrote and self-published, When the Woman you Love has Breast Cancer, after his wife’s diagnosis and Prostate Cancer’s Emotional Maze: Forging your Way, after hearing his own bad news. “With Sandy, it scared the bejesus out of me,” said Eiler, who was married 23 years when they learned of her illness. “Then you have to put your mind in the positive.
What are you going to do about it? What’s your plan?” The couple sat down, grabbed a white board and wrote about their feelings, concerns and anything else that came to mind. “This gives you some form of control. You make a plan for dealing with things positively day by day and month by month,” he said. “Soon you get ahead of it.” Getting good advice from physicians, nurses and others about your child’s illness, possible treatments and their potential side effects is vital. “People want to help you. There are a lot of social workers and self-help groups for mothers and fathers, grandmas and grandpas. Get a network of people you can communicate with,” he said.

The Internet is another good source of information. "No matter what you do, the initial sense of panic probably won’t go away," he said. “You just have to fight through it. The best way we’ve found is to talk about it,” he said. “The thing you can’t do is to get paralyzed by the fear.” His experiences with Ronald McDonald House of Ann Arbor has changed him for the better, said Eiler. “You become much more compassionate with everyone.” he said.

For more information about the Ronald McDonald House of Ann Arbor, visit