Linda and Ed K. used to walk into the Toys of Hope warehouse in Huntington Station as volunteers, wrapping and delivering gifts to families in need.
Because of disease and disability, this season they've become recipients instead.
Life became very difficult very quickly for the family of four from Holtsville. Ed, who didn't want the family's last name used because he didn't want to embarrass his two children Jesse, 7, and Angelica, 9, hurt his back two years ago while working as a mechanic for Nassau County and went out on disability.
Then Linda, a stay-at-home mom, was rediagnosed with rectal cancer. Their car was repossessed, and they live in a crowded one-bedroom house.
"It's been a rough road," Ed said, his broad face knitted in worry. "I try every day."
"At one time, we used to volunteer here," Linda said. "Now we're on the other end."
Linda lost more than 80 pounds while on radiation therapy, and says the treatment hurts so much "I can't play with the kids the way I want to."
The kids are great, their parents say - straight A's, good attitudes. "When we did well, we always had a habit of spoiling them," she said. "They work hard all year. They were never bratty."
The goodies picked up at Toys of Hope on Friday - two bikes, a stuffed animal, shoes for Angelica - will help brighten their Christmas, she hopes.
Ed won't undergo a much-needed bypass surgery while his wife is sick and instead pops nitroglycerin pills. He wants to go back to work, but he says his health may not stand up to the physical demands of being a mechanic.
Linda says she believes things will improve. "I think things are going to get better," she said, looking forward to 2010. "I'm a very positive person."