Couple debilitated by illnesses receives gifts of money and love Friends raise money with Millersville auction


Linda Ford's life has not been the same since friends held an auction for the cancer patient a week ago.

The 42-year-old Annapolis area resident still suffers with bone cancer. Her husband Bruce, an oysterman, is still unable to work after undergoing extensive back surgery and suffering an extensive post-operative infection. Their 7-year-old son, Alex, must contend with the illnesses of both parents.

But the auction did special things for Ford, she says. It removed the burden of financial anxiety by raising thousands of dollars, although Ford declined to specify how much.

"I've noticed this week that I'm not scared like I was without any income," she says. "I really saw how people could help me. And it's a lesson, too, in letting people help me."

For Ford, whom friends call "a helper," that's been a hard lesson. "We're pretty hard-core, self-sufficient people," she says. "It's been very difficult to accept people's giving of money."

Since January, Ford and her husband haven't been able to work because of illness. Both are self-employed; she as a massage therapist in Annapolis, he as an oyster diver.

When they couldn't work, they had to confront a life with no income.

Ford's breast cancer had spread to her bones. Earlier this year, her husband, who is 40, had a triple fusion of three vertebrae in his back, with steel plates inserted. The operation was successful, but a "horrible infection" set in where bone had been removed from his hip to put in his spine.

Ford had been taking care of her husband during his recovery, but began to experience severe pain from the cancer itself, not just the side effects of treatment. For weeks, neither she nor her husband could stand.

The situation spurred a group of friends to ask what they could do to help. They couldn't change the illness, but they could arrange financial help.

Bernadette Zorio, a psychiatric nurse and friend of the Fords, explains how the auction came about: "Four of us were sitting together and wanted to do something to support them during this time, and someone suggested an auction," she says.

In seven weeks, they made what to Ford was "a fantasy" actually happen. More than 250 people came to the auction May 16 in Millersville and another 150 donated services, items and money. More than 28,000 raffle tickets were sold by word-of-mouth.

Items donated for the auction ranged from week-long vacations in the Poconos to free greens fees at a local golf course. "I had a client I hadn't seen in five years who heard about the auction," Ford says. "She came and handed me a check for $500."

The auction made enough money to help the Fords "get on our feet," she says.

But the larger gift the illness and auction brought is a deeper relationship with other people, say those involved in the event.

"It was blessed," says Zorio. "Especially in this day and age, people have a need to have a sense of participation. It affected everybody, having a part in this real loving act."

For Ford, the cancer has become a path to growth. "I don't wish this suffering on anyone, but we have received an intimacy with all my friends, and experienced that love and support and willingness to be in relationships in ways we probably would have overlooked without the severity of the illness," she says. "It's easy to get caught up in ordinary life."

Ford and her family were yanked from routine life four years ago when she learned she had breast cancer. Radiation therapy has helped the pain but won't cure the cancer because it has spread throughout her body, Ford says.

She wears a catheter in her chest that feeds her continuous chemotherapy. She hopes it will help slow the spread of the cancer, but her prognosis is poor, she says.

"At times I cry, but I don't want to boo-hoo 'poor us.' I don't feel that way," she says. "As long as I can function, I feel real grateful."

Those interested in helping the Fords may send donations to the Acupuncture Center of Annapolis, 168 West St., Annapolis 21401.

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