Patrisha Lydick's mother collects unemployment, and her father hopes to collect disability benefits after being injured on the job. A tennis tournament will help raise money for the family's living expenses.
By LEON M. TUCKER and EILEEN SCHULTE
© St. Petersburg Times, published June 1, 2001
SAFETY HARBOR -- Patrisha Lydick ran her fingers through thin stands of her blond hair, exposing a pink, crescent-shaped scar on the right side of her scalp.
"Here it is," the 17-year-old said of the mark left over from brain surgery.
Patrisha has brain cancer. Money in the Lydick household is so tight, "I can't afford to buy vitamins for Trisha," her mother, Brinda Lydick, said. "And I think she needs them."
The Lydicks are getting help from an unexpected source: Keith Zayac, a Safety Harbor commissioner who has organized the Lydick Family Tennis Benefit, an adult singles tournament to raise money toward helping Patrisha and her family with living expenses.
The event is scheduled for 8 a.m. Saturday at the McMullen Tennis Complex in Clearwater.
"I can't believe he would reach out to help us. I'm shocked," said Scott Lydick, Patrisha's father. "And he has a sick child at home, too. He has a lot of heart."
Zayac had never met the Lydick family when he learned of the family's plight from an acquaintance. For Zayac, the pain of helping a sick child was familiar. Zayac's son, 7-year-old Logan Zayac, has ganglioneuroblastoma, an aggressive cancer that develops mainly in young children.
"I wouldn't wish this on anyone," Zayac said. "If there is something we can do to give these kids a little relief, we should do it."
Several older cars are parked in the front yard of the Lydicks' tiny house on Sixth Avenue. Inside a front door that takes effort to shut, the furniture is worn.
But despite a home that is in slight disrepair, family pride is not.
Patrisha dropped out of ninth grade at Countryside High School because of her illness and plans to study for her GED.
And instead of collecting Social Security for her illness, Patrisha has chosen to work at a nearby Boston Market restaurant for just a little more than $5 an hour.
"It's better than sitting around here all day," she said. "I'm a server and I clean chicken ovens."
It was 7 years ago that Brinda Lydick dreamed her daughter was lying on a table with a hole in her forehead and three people standing over her.
Mrs. Lydick, 47, thought it was a warning that her daughter was going to be shot between the eyes.
Two months later, she noticed her daughter's eyes were crossed when she complained of double vision. Tests revealed Patrisha, then 9, had a rare and potentially deadly brain tumor. She has choroid plexus carcinoma, one of the rarest forms of cancer.
Often strapped for cash, her mother, who collects unemployement, used the family's last $40 to take her to an eye doctor, also at All Children's Medical Clinic in St. Petersburg.
Several years ago, an accident at work in which he was pinned between a motor home and another vehicle caused fractures in two places in his back and crushed his legs.
The 41-year-old is hoping to collect medical disability benefits and may never work again.
"Financially, we are tapped," he said.
The Zayac family's home on Bridgeport Drive sports a neatly trimmed lawn and screened-in pool that are common in the upper-middle-class neighborhood off State Road 580.
But when Logan's illness was discovered, the family's picture-perfect life took an emotionally exhausting turn.
The day was Dec. 7, 1999. Logan Zayac had just had the day of his life.
At 5 years old, he had scored the only goal in his Saturday morning soccer game, passed the karate exam that awarded him a yellow belt and later attended a friend's birthday party.
But at the party, the boy lost his balance and fell off a home playground slide, breaking his arm.
When Logan was taken to All Children's Hospital, doctors discovered his condition.
"It was really hard on Logan because he was really scared and didn't understand what was going on," said Keith Zayac.
The boy and his parents have been to New York four times. There, he has undergone tests of his bone marrow, urine and insides to see how his body is fighting the illness.
Between medical bills and the potentially expensive trips to New York, financial hardship could have come down on the Zayacs. But with the help of insurance and air travelers donating frequent-flyer miles, and the Ronald McDonald house of New York helping with accommodations, the Zayacs were spared any real hardship.
"You know the system works when you have so many people there to help walk you through the process," said Sheryl Zayac.
The Lydick Family Adult Singles Tennis Tournament Benefit will start at 8 a.m. Saturday at McMullen Tennis Complex, 1000 Edenville Ave., Clearwater. The cost is $30 per player and includes match balls, T-shirt, lunch and trophies. Players must be over 18. Call 669-1919.