FRANKLIN, MA — A 19-year veteran custodian at John F. Kennedy Elementary School is unable to do the job she loves because of advanced pancreatic cancer that has spread to her liver, according to the Milford Daily News.
Patricia Ridge, known by some staff as "Patty Penguin" after donning such a costume for students 11 years ago, has largely kept the diagnosis a secret and has only told her beloved students that she is "out sick," the story stated.
According to the story, Ridge was diagnosed in May after a pancreas biopsy revealed that she had cancer.
Ridge''s sister, Kathy Lewis, said: "After we both stopped crying for a couple minutes, Patty started cracking jokes right off the bat. We''re trying to stay upbeat, joking, laughing and hoping for the best. We keep saying Patty''s living with cancer, not dying from cancer."
Ridge has little to no chance of being discharged from the hospital, so Lewis spends a majority of her time at the bedside of her sister talking, watching television and reading to her, the story noted.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, of the 38,000 people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer that were given "no hope," 600 are still living, meaning there is hope for Ridge.
Because Ridge lacks life insurance, her sister labored to open the Patricia Ridge Penque Benefit Fund to cover Ridge''s medical expenses, the story added.
Ridge said, jokingly at first, but ending with a sense of acceptance: "Oh crap, I have to plan my funeral. What am I going to wear? It is what it is. God''s either going to walk me through this or walk me home, but I''m not walking alone."
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