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Hoping help is on the way: Veteran buffeted by cancer, home repair challenges
The Herald - 12/24/2020
Dec. 24—WEST MIDDLESEX — Patti Aquino said she doesn't like asking for help, but she feels like she's exhausted all other options for a much-needed home repair.
The West Middlesex woman, a 58-year-old Navy veteran, is undergoing cancer treatment, and the roof of her mobile home is leaking, with the worst of winter still to come. She has reached out, unsuccessfully to multiple organizations to seek assistance.
Some of the agencies say she and Tom, her husband of 25 years, make too much money to qualify for financial help, even though both are now unable to work because of health problems. She tried to get a grant through the Wounded Warrior Project.
"Through the pandemic, they're running out of money, too," Patti Aquino said.
Tom Aquino receives some money from Social Security — he has had three strokes — and Patti is on disability,
She has applied for Social Security benefits a second time. The first time around, the Social Security office denied her application and ruled that she should still be able to work.
She said she would love to work, but her health issues forced her to quit her job at the parole office in Mercer during the summer of 2019.
That means less income to cover medical bills and other repairs that come with being a homeowner, like fixing the furnace, an expense they have already had to pay.
Their daughter Brie, a working college student, lives with them and her dog Bruno, and she helps out as much as possible. They also have a son, Shane, who lives in Beaver Falls.
Patti Aquino's uncle, Jim Williams, is a roofer, and he has offered to replace the leaking roof, which is original to the mobile home where the Aquinos have lived for about 21 years.
"I've tried to patch it and do what I can," said Tom Aquino, who has vertigo and cannot climb a ladder.
It's beyond repair, and some of the leaks have caused heavy damage to the insulation, he added.
But even with Williams doing the labor free of charge, the Aquinos need to buy roofing materials, at an estimated cost of $3,500, which they cannot afford.
While they've been trying to figure out how to pay for it, Williams encouraged Patti Aquino to share her story.
She was diagnosed with breast cancer in early 2019 after finding a lump. She had chemotherapy and was preparing for a lumpectomy when her health declined further. She was very weak and had trouble eating and drinking.
Thinking she was experiencing side effects from the chemo, she sought hospital care several times in the past year. On one of her trips to the emergency room, she learned she had a lung infection and hole in her diaphragm.
The diaphragm injury was related to stomach surgery she had about 11 years ago, she said.
"I didn't think she was going to make it," her husband said.
She was in a coma for a few weeks and had several surgeries to remove her stomach and parts of her small intestine, lung and esophagus, which had been damaged by stomach acid.
She was finally able to have the lumpectomy in February, and she has resumed chemotherapy. But her continuing health issues sometimes force her into a wheelchair and keep her from working.
"Nothing's the same with me," she said.
Because of her increased risk of getting sick, Patti Aquino isn't able to leave the house much, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
When she does have enough energy, she finds great comfort in the things she used to enjoy all the time, like traveling.
The family took a trip to Myrtle Beach this summer, and while being in the car for a long period of time was a challenge, a beach visit was just what she needed.
"I needed to get out. I needed to get away," she said.
They plan on spending a quiet holiday at home, hoping to find help with keeping a roof over their heads.
The Aquinos feel that all of the hurdles they continue to face have strengthened their relationship, and they are thankful for what they do have.
"After three strokes, I'm glad to wake up every day," Tom Aquino said.
THOSE WANTING to help can contact the Aquinos via Facebook, where her page is "Patti Myers Aquino."
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