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The Baltimore Sun

Bel Air family holds yard sale for ailing firefighter

When firefighter AJ Pumilia went to the emergency room last June because he wasn't feeling well, the word "cancer" wasn't even mentioned.

By December, the husband and father was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor and fighting for his life.

"Doctors said to get things in order because they didn't think he would make it through the night," his wife, Jessica Pumilia, said.

It's been a difficult year for the Bel Air family, full of multiple surgeries, daily trips to Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center and mounting medical bills.

So when a friend suggested having a yard sale to raise funds, Pumilia said, "Why not?"

From 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 19 and 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 20 a yard and bake sale will be held at Fallston Volunteer Fire Company, 2201 Carrs Mill Road, to benefit the family during their time of need.

While the firefighter's condition has improved since his last surgery in December, his wife says he still has a long way to go.

The doctors told Pumilia that her husband, a volunteer with Engine 27 in Washington D.C., had a very rare condition - a tumor growing on the pineal gland in his brain, which affects a person's wake and sleep patterns.

At first, the family was told the tumor was slow growing and non-cancerous, but around Thanksgiving, it was discovered that his tumor had tripled in size and surgery was needed.

"It was extremely risky, but we had no choice," Pumilia remembers about the surgery in December.

Because of the tumor's location, doctors weren't able to remove it all and there was major bleeding, she said.

Since then, her husband has struggled to regain movement and speech through therapy multiple times a week. He's also going through radiation, which should stop the tumor from growing back too quickly.

"It's not a matter of life and death any more," Pumilia said, pointing out the silver lining. "Most likely, he's going to have more surgeries, though."

That's where the yard sale comes in.

"People are always trying to get rid of stuff," she said. "I thought it was a good way [to raise money]."

Pumilia isn't expecting all of the numerous medical bills and doctors' fees to be paid off — somewhere between $200,000 and $300,000 — but is grateful for every cent she can raise.

"If anything, it's gas money to get down there," Pumilia commented.

The community has already rallied to help AJ, Jessica and their 10-month-old son, Dominick Pumilia.

A few firefighters in D.C. who know Pumilia and his family also volunteer at the Fallston and Bel Air fire companies. Watching out for their "brother," the Fallston Volunteer Fire Company donated their space for the event and will host an open house and serve pit beef, as well.

"They've been amazing," Pumilia said. "They've been wonderful helping and trying to make it as big as possible to support us."

It's no wonder she married a firefighter, the wife said, as her uncle and grandfather were also volunteers.

"The brotherhood of all these guys is amazing," she continued.

Between 20 an 30 families in the community have dropped off items to be sold at the event, Pumilia said, enough to fill her basement with donations.

Even a neighbor down the street from the family who cuts grass to earn money donated $100 to the cause.

Thanks to her supportive mother, there will also be a bake sale with pies, cookie, cupcakes and other baked goods.

For more information on how to donate time, yard or bake sale items or money, visit facebook.com/groups/ajfightstrong.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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