Angie Bitsko is going toe-to-toe with 2020. She has taken several punches on the chin, but the Rancho Peñasquitos woman isn’t likely to get knocked down.
“I figure if I can stay positive and strong, that kind of sets the tone for everyone else,” she said Wednesday from a hospital bed at Kaiser Permanente Zion Medical Center.
NBC 7 first met Bitsko in July when she celebrated finally getting her son back into school. Distance learning wasn’t the best solution for 21-year-old Jared Bitsko, who has Down Syndrome.
Unfortunately, Jared’s school closed again until October, a few weeks after his mother’s world started getting even harder.
“My husband and I keep saying, ‘God only gives you what you can handle,’ and you’ve got this plate,” laughed Bitsko. “God must think we’ve got this huge buffet plate.”
“Life has thrown her a lot of curveballs,” explains Bitsko’s friend Rebecca Huber. “She lost her job and that was 50% of the family’s income.”
Huber worked with Bitsko in the Theater Department at John Paul the Great Catholic University in Escondido. Bitsko got the bad news after the pandemic impacted enrollment and the school’s budget.
“They said that they were going to have to lay me off,” she said.
Then life took another turn for the worse.
“Within a month of losing her job she received the diagnosis of acute leukemia which is life-threatening,” said Huber. “Her only chance of survival at this point is a bone marrow transplant.”
“September’s just been a doozy of a month,” chuckled a surprisingly upbeat Bitsko, who hasn’t left the hospital or seen her family in person since Sept. 26.
“I’ve already resigned myself that I’m going to have to don the Sinead O’Conner fashionable look,” she said as she stroked her hair.
“Angie can laugh and make a joke out of anything,” added Huber, who spoke to NBC 7 from her Point Loma home. “I have never heard her go into any pity-poor me.”
“I just find that panic and self-pity and all that, I just find it exhausting,” Bitsko continued.
She said she is grateful for Huber who has established a GoFundMe page to help her family cover their finances after she lost her job.
“Because of her efforts and getting the word out, I have people that I don’t even know who are praying for me and praying for our family,” sighed Bitsko. “People are going to the bone marrow to get tested for compatibility.”
She said her siblings are also being tested as bone marrow matches.
“And if not Angie, it will help many, many other people,” said Huber, looking for the silver lining.
In the meantime, Bitsko said her husband is still working and their older daughter has dropped everything to care for Jared.
“There’s something good that’s going to come out of this,” concluded Huber.