Adopt A Family: After battling cancer and kidney failure, the Aipolani ohana find strength in each other
If anyone deserves a holiday, it is Theresa Aipolani.
The certified nurse's assistant works with client patients 7 days a week and is a caregiver for her own family -- her husband Jason who has stage 4 renal failure and diabetes and her 23-year old son Jarrin who is recovering from a tough battle with leukemia.
"It was like a bullet to your brain," Theresa recalls when Jarrin was diagnosed in 2013. "My kids needed me more than ever. ... They were ready. They were like, don't worry mom. Do what you gotta do. We got the kids, we got the house. That was the hardest thing we had to go through as a family."
Theresa says Jarrin underwent more than 70 rounds of chemotherapy. Through it all, his mother was there.
"She's pretty much the backbone to our family," Jarrin said: "Those are the moments that I really miss, like when she was there, I was sleeping, she wouldn't wake me up. She would just let me sleep. And that really dawned on me because during that treatment, I never felt any closer to her. Cause she was the only person in the family who every day will be there for me."
Theresa's husband Jason adds, "If it wasn't for her, this place, everybody, everybody would break down without her."
That includes two teenagers, relatives whose own families couldn't care for them: 16-year-old great grandniece Layenelle and 14-year-old adopted son Shayston.
"They do so much for us. No matter how much family issues you have going on they will always find a way to be there for us," Layenelle said.
"For everything that she does, she deserves a whole year break, to spend time with us and get to know like what's been happening past few years that she's been working hard," Shayston said.
"For the past couple of years I've been, I've been holding on by a thread just trying to support the family and keep the kids as normal, keep normalcy as normal in this family as possible," Theresa said.
The Aipolanis also have 2 grown daughters and a son. They have four grandchildren, the youngest born just a month ago.
Theresa says her ohana is her source of strength.
"We still fight every single day to survive to be together as a family. We still struggle, we still make it work. Yeah, we're getting through," she said.
On Theresa's wish list: kitchenware, a vacuum and gift cards to Foodland. Jason would appreciate a wood walking cane and shower chair. The children's list includes video games, gift cards and clothes. Layenelle's list also includes makeup.
If you're interested in adopting the Aipolani ohana, send an email to Adopt a Family at AAF@helpinghandsHawaii.org and use the code LT-LEE-1.