Ex-Marine Tom Gervasi has spent the last 10 years fighting cancer and the U.S. government.
The 76-year-old Sarasota man has a rare form of breast cancer that he believes is due to contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, where he trained in the mid-1950s.
On Friday, Gervasi went into the hospital so doctors could snake a camera into his lungs to check for cancerous lesions. He's been coughing and short of breath in recent months, and can barely shuffle from his living room to his screened-in porch without leaning on his cane and stopping to catch his breath.
Gervasi said he is struggling to stay alive so he can win compensation from the government and not leave his wife, Elaine, with any of his medical debt. The two will mark their 57th wedding anniversary on March 24. When they retired to Florida nearly a dozen years ago, they assumed they would play tennis, walk the beach and travel the world.
Those plans haven't been possible because of Gervasi's illness, not even quick jaunts up north to visit their grandchildren. The couple has focused solely on Gervasi's seemingly endless doctors' appointments and trying to convince the Department of Veterans Affairs that the contaminated water caused the cancer.