Raising money and hope
ADRIAN — After 16 years as an EMT for the Adrian Ambulance Service, Patty Thier has helped individuals during the most personal of circumstances, whether it’s an injury in a car crash or an illness.
Now in a battle of her own against ovarian cancer, Thier is on the receiving end of the care and compassion she’s shown to others time and time again.
“So many of those people have come out and they’ve said this is their payback,” she said Monday afternoon. “You don’t do that (ambulance work) for payback, but I understand where they’re coming from, too.”
Friends and family have come together to organize a benefit in Thier’s honor from 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday at the Adrian Middle School gymnasium, 415 Kentucky Ave. A barbecue feed will be served during the entire event, with a silent auction planned from 4 to 6:30 p.m., followed by a live auction at 6:30 p.m.
Thier’s battle with cancer began on July 7, 2013, after her husband Pat took her to the hospital with severe abdominal pain. Within an hour and a half, the diagnosis was made that tumors were present.
In weeks prior to the discovery, Thier said the only symptoms she had were a loss of appetite — her stomach felt full all the time — and some bloating.
“I’d only felt symptoms maybe up to a month beforehand,” she recalled.
Two days after the diagnosis, Thier began chemotherapy treatments in Sioux Falls, S.D. The plan was to shrink the tumors and perform surgery, however, the lack of response from the treatments left doctors with no option to operate. The tumors were too close to her liver and intestinal tract.
Thier was then deemed a candidate for an experimental drug, which she tried for nine weeks. When that also proved unsuccessful, she was encouraged to see doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. A less than one hour commute to the west grew into a more than three hour commute to the east.
“Since early December, I’ve been making a weekly trip to Rochester to receive treatment,” Thier said. “It’s slow, but I think I’m hanging in there.”
Since her diagnosis, Thier has lost about 40 pounds and enough strength that doctors don’t think her body can endure a full round of chemotherapy treatment. As a result, they are given in three smaller doses. She is on three different chemo drugs, and it takes about four hours per transfusion. Along the way, she’s also had to have numerous blood transfusions.
Thier had no family history of ovarian cancer, and at the urging of doctors in Sioux Falls, she went through genetic counseling. Through that process, she learned the type of cancer she has is one that women only have a 4 percent chance of getting. With four sisters and three daughters, her biggest concern is that someone else in her family would have to go through this.
“At that point I was very relieved,” she said. “With a 4 percent chance of getting it, there was no genetic background for me.”
With the weekly chemotherapy treatments in Rochester, Thier said the cancer has not spread to other areas of her body. Also, the lymph nodes have “gotten considerably smaller,” which she said is a good thing.
Her chemo appointments are usually on Thursday or Friday, and Thier has had volunteers — mostly siblings or her children — to take her there. Most of the time, the appointments are scheduled such that she can make the journey in a day; other times they’ve had to stay overnight. Every three weeks, her husband travels with her for the scheduled doctor appointments and updates about her cancer.
With the cost of gas, food and occasional motel stays, combined with only the income of her husband, Thier said she’s been overwhelmed by the people offering help in any way they can.
“Around Christmas, so many people came with monetary donations,” she said. “I couldn’t believe how many people thought about me.”
A native of Lismore and long-time Adrian resident, the 51-year-old Thier is well-known in the area. Up until her diagnosis she worked for the U.S. Postal Service, starting her career in Worthington in 1992.
The Thiers have four grown children — two daughters in Luverne, a daughter in Bloomington and a son in Worthington. All have been “real helpful,” she said in facing her battle with cancer. The kids keep extended family and friends up to date on their mother’s fight through the Caring Bridge site (www.caringbridge.org/visit/pattythier).
The American Cancer Society also reached out to the Thiers, and Mayo Health has resources available to help the family.
Thier said her family and friends organized this Saturday’s benefit without her knowing about it. She feels humbled by the outpouring of support.
“I’m so humbled by it and it’s such an overwhelming feeling,” she said. “I don’t know how to thank these people.”
Thier’s sister, Tammi Soehl, is one of more than a dozen people who are coordinating Saturday’s benefit.
Donations have come in from many people, businesses and organizations, including several high-ticket items. Among the featured offerings in the live auction are a one-week trip to Florida, diamond and ruby necklace, Vikings tickets, Minnesota Gophers vs. Iowa Hawkeyes football tickets, a Green Mountain grill, quilt, patio furniture, bunk beds and a Lake Shetek weekend.
Silent auction items include everything from gift certificates and gift baskets to photography sessions and a hotel, limo, wine and spa weekend in Sioux Falls. Beef and pork bundles, golf packages, prints and car detailing are also on the silent auction.
In addition to the barbecue feed, Soehl said there will also be a bake sale.
“This is just amazing how people just come together at a time like this,” Soehl said. “It’s very humbling.”
Those unable to attend the benefit but interested in making a monetary contribution may do so by sending a check to the Patty Thier Charitable Donation account at the Adrian State Bank, P.O. Box 129, Adrian.