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Mom fights for life with son's help

"I don't want special treatment," says Linda Breznitsky. "I just want to live."

And "living" means such simple things as accompanying her 10-year-old son, Drew, to a shopping mall for Halloween festivities and later for Christmas shopping.

Linda, 31, and her son live in a neat little duplex near Clearwater High School. That's where she is confined most of the time because of a serious and worsening lung condition that severely limits her physical activity. She has an electric scooter but can't afford the $700 to $800 to install a lift in her van, which is needed because the scooter is too heavy for her and Drew.

She soon may lose the scooter anyway because she can't afford the payments and an expected reimbursement from Medicare has not materialized. With the help of relatives, she made payments for a while but still owes $952.

Her church, Faith United Church of Christ on Drew Street, recently helped to pay for Linda and Drew to travel to the Hershey Medical Center in Pennsylvania for a second opinion about her condition, but the 250-member congregation is now seeking outside financial support.

The Rev. David Smith obtained the approval of his board to establish a bank account. Checks payable to "Faith UCC for Linda Breznitsky" may be sent to First Union National Bank, 2140 Gulf-to-Bay Blvd., Clearwater 34625. Questions should be directed to Nancy Fuller at the church, 799-4602.

Linda tries to stay upbeat, for her son's sake as well as her own, but admits to being "aggravated" about Medicare's obstinacy. She also gets frustrated about being so limited in what she can do.

This is a woman who played on high school basketball, softball, flag football and cross country teams, with tennis, swimming, ice skating and bicycling on the side. She also played on a softball team during a short stint in the Army and dreamed of being the only 5-foot-3 basketball player at UCLA.

Drew remembers how he and his mom once went hiking, fishing and bicycling together as well as played baseball and flag football. But all that ended in May 1988 when she was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease, a form of cancer. She spent a year undergoing chemotherapy and radiation, but then in July 1989 was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, a lung disease.

The chemotherapy had put her in remission as far as the cancer, but one of the drugs used, bleomycin, had affected her lungs, doctors said. She underwent several surgical procedures and has lost much of her lung capacity.

Drew, a Plumb Elementary fifth-grader, does a lot to help, like cleaning the house, doing laundry, washing and exercising their dog, cleaning the van and even some cooking. Yet he finds time for homework, piano lessons (paid for by an aunt up North) and bowling (paid by himself with money earned doing odd jobs in the neighborhood).

"I feel like I'm taking away his childhood," Linda said, but added, "He's growing up to be very responsible. I have one heck of a boy."