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Husband 'fought so bravely'

Before dying of a neuromuscular disease, Jerry Gomez "did the best he could with the energy he had."

By KEVIN GRAHAM
Published April 4, 2006


TAMPA - Carol Gomez sat at her husband's hospital bedside Friday and told him it was okay to stop fighting the disease that had brought him near death, family friends said.

She and the couple's 8-year-old triplets would be just fine, she told him.

Jerry Gomez died the next day. He was 51.

In February, doctors at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center diagnosed Mr. Gomez with progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, a neuromuscular disease usually associated with AIDS and some forms of cancer.

Mr. Gomez developed it after years of aggressive chemotherapy and treatment for his non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

"He sure fought so bravely," said Myron Solomon, a close family friend. "Unfortunately, he was weakened beyond the point to beat this thing."

Solomon got to know the Gomez family after his daughter, Katia, was diagnosed with leukemia in 2002 and needed a bone marrow transplant.

Carol Gomez sits on the board of the Katia Solomon Foundation, which works to raise awareness about life-threatening, blood related diseases.

Doctors first diagnosed Mr. Gomez with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in the summer of 1998.

He received a bone marrow transplant last year after people across Tampa rallied to help find him a matching donor.

By the end of 2005, Mr. Gomez, a financial planner who lived in Bayshore Beautiful, had started having seizures and strokes.

He had a brain biopsy in February that confirmed the neuromuscular disease, and doctors gave him a month to live.

"It was expected, but it wasn't," said Brandi Jackson, a Gomez family friend and neighbor.

At one point, Mr. Gomez could no longer walk or talk.

Then he began showing slight improvements when doctors started using new, more aggressive medications.

He regained a little speech and had started eating on his own.

But things took a turn for the worst in recent weeks.

"For a guy who was sick, he was warm and friendly and outgoing," said Scott Ulm, president of the Katia Solomon Foundation. "He did the best he could with the energy he had."

Ulm and his wife would often take the Gomez's triplets, Max, Robert and Julia, for pizza and movies.

"I didn't get to know (Jerry Gomez) nearly as well as I wish I had," Ulm said.

"He was a great man whom everybody loved."

Mr. Gomez was a graduate of King High School and worked for Levin Financial Group (Mass Mutual) for 25 years. He was a member of Palma Ceia Presbyterian Church and Ybor City Chamber of Commerce.

Besides his wife and children, Mr. Gomez leaves behind his mother, Olga Sanchez, brother Joe Gomez and sisters Olga Gomez, Lenor Morris and Ovenia Fenzau.

Family visitation will take place Wednesday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Blount & Curry Funeral Home, 605 S MacDill Ave. The funeral will begin at 12:30 p.m. Thursday at Palma Ceia Presbyterian Church, 3501 W San Jose St. Burial will follow in Myrtle Hill Memorial Park, 4207 E Lake Ave.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Katia Solomon Foundation, P.O. Box 22375, Tampa, FL 33622.

--Kevin Graham can be reached at 813 226-3433 or kgraham@sptimes.com

[Last modified April 4, 2006, 03:00:35]


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