Chesapeake woman with terminal cancer, son get needed help

A terminally ill Chesapeake woman and her son, who suffers from chronic respiratory issues, received much-needed help.

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — You know that saying “when it rains it pours?”

Well, a Chesapeake mother and son have only had bad news; and just when they didn’t think things couldn’t get worse, they did.

Cynthia Lopez and her son Ritchie Barnes live in a mobile home. She has had four bouts with cancer, and is now in hospice care.

Barnes has lung issues, including COPD and emphysema. 32 years ago, he installed his heating-air conditioning system.

Last week, his heating system broke down and he was told it couldn’t be fixed because it’s so old that they don’t make parts for it anymore. He couldn’t get a loan, and doesn’t have the money for a new heater.

‘I had to do something’

You know you’re at Cynthia Lopez’s home when you see the roses in bloom, and when you see Heartland Hospice Care nurse Carla Begeot.

“We want our patients to have a peaceful, comfortable death, but when a patient tells me they have no heat…I had to do something,” Begeot alerted us. “This is hard, it really is. I use to be a go-getter, but I’m not a go-getter anymore, you know what I mean?” he said with great emotion, and then paused and said, “sorry.”

Lopez can’t speak now, but communicates through her fingers. Throat cancer, then lung cancer, then skin cancer, then the final bout of lung cancer — and now she says it’s terminal.

“And then I’m going to die too,” Barnes said, “but it’s different when you watch your mama do it, you know what I mean?”

This last week, after 32 years, the heater died. And a new heating and air conditioning system would cost $5,000.

So Barnes kept mama warm with their stove and stood guard. “I stayed up all night, and I did it for the past week, so I stayed up, so she could sleep and stay warm,” Barnes said. “And I did that so the house wouldn’t burn down, and then I
sleep during the day…I never had a dad, so my dad was never in my life, so she has always been there. We are kind of two peas in a pod, I guess, even though we fight like dogs, we’re like the married couple,” Barnes added with a laugh. His mother laughed too.

A call for help

Cynthia, Ritchie and Carla didn’t know this, but we had put out a call for help.

“Hi Cynthia, I’m James with Michael and Son Services. I hear you have been having a problem with your HVAC system,” said James Spagnuolo as he walked in the door.  Barnes, stunned by Spagnuolo’s presence, said, “Yes, sir. Big time.”

Spagnuolo continued with the good news: “Well you know what? Michael and Son is going to step in, and take care of you.”

“Oh my gracious, thank you very much,” Barnes said.

Spagnuolo continued: “We are going to install a whole new system, and get you right.”

Spagnuolo had became an angel in flight. “We are looking forward to helping you. Can I have a hug?” Spagnuolo said. Suddenly Spagnuolo, Barnes and his mother Cynthia were all in a warm embrace.

A big thanks to Heartland Hospice Care nurse Carla Begeot for bringing us this story, and a heartfelt thanks to Michael and Son Services and James Spagnuolo for answering the call of service to those in need. The new HVAC system will be installed next week.