Our father and mother met in junior high. Cuban, with a sprinkling of Sicilian, the two smart and feisty Tampa natives began a relationship. With an anniversary just around the corner, these high school sweethearts have now been married nearly forty-seven years.
Our parents have always been incredibly giving. My father offered a tremendous amount of support and mentorship through volunteer work (he worked to establish and fund a free prosthetic and orthotic clinic for 5,000 amputees and survivors of the Amero, Columbia mudslide), tutoring, medical advice, and consultation in any area of his expertise (which he would jokingly claim is every area).
My mother has a huge heart and dynamic personality. A natural comic, she was the life of the party and had many friends from all walks of life. The glue that held their team together, she kept their lives organized, fun, and lively while raising two daughters - one now a successful CMO of a luxury real estate company in NYC and the other a writer entering graduate school at Columbia University.
With both children gone, we thought my parents could continue building their new prosthetic business and lead a happy life in Florida. But ten years ago an event occurred that would change our family dynamic forever...
We discovered Mom had to have open heart surgery (Coronary Artery Bypass Graft Surgery). She told us not to worry, she would get through it just fine. The surgery was a success and we thought, mom knows best. But the night before her discharge a clot traveled from her heart to her brain, cutting off the blood supply and causing a massive stroke. Because she just had heart surgery, they were unable to give her typical clot-busting medicine. We were told, “you will be lucky if she lives through the night.”
What the doctors didn’t know is that Cubans are stubborn, almost as stubborn as Sicilians. We don’t give up and we don’t give in. Mom had not died that evening and she didn’t die the evening after that.
Over the years, she slowly recovered. The stroke left her partially paralyzed and aphasiac (the once talkative woman could now only communicate with a handful of words) but she was still able to enjoy a life with her husband. My father leapt into the role of caregiver and has been taking care of her with no aid for the past ten years. Though he tried numerous times, as a full time caregiver my father was never able to fully return to work. No income, sky-high medical bills, and expensive medicines caused my parents to deplete what little savings they had and forced them to move in with relatives.
Earlier this year, my sister and I scraped together enough savings to move them up to New York near us. My mother always dreamed of living in Hudson Valley so we found them a place in a nice 55+ community just west of the Hudson River. We were all waiting for this long winter to be over, for the sun to come out so we could enjoy some time as a family together.
Four months into their new life in NY, our mother began feeling ill. Over a month’s time she became incredibly fatigued and had problems keeping food down. The day she was supposed to go into the city to see her youngest child graduate college, she was rushed to a hospital instead. A CT scan revealed three large masses in her abdomen, esophagus, and rectum with an additional lesion on her kidney. She was diagnosed with advanced diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (Non Hotchkins Lymphoma).
Her first round of chemo began June 5th, 2017. She will return in three weeks for a second round and her kidney will be reevaluated. We hope the cancer will go in remission and that we will have more quality time with mom exploring the Hudson Valley under the summer sun.
Our mom will be transferred to a skilled nursing home while she recovers from chemo but ultimately, her wish is to be at home.
We are raising money for:
a wheelchair lift van
family expenses for travel
expenses not covered by medicare/medicaid
If you are able to and would like to contribute, we would be incredibly humbled by any amount.
Jacquelyn & Annette Gallo