While she sat, propped by pillows, in a hospital bed Sunday evening, her friends and family were throwing Brandi (Knowles) Thomas, 35, a bash that she won’t soon forget.
“She just had her third radical surgery last week,” explained Lisa Ridout, Brandi’s friend and event organizer. “She is very sore and hurting. They took skin from her thigh to graft it back to her chest area. She not only had her breast removed, but lymph nodes, some muscle and much of the tissue surrounding ribs, arm pit, side, etc. She will start chemo again (third time) as soon as she is healing properly. She has also done radiation.”
Thomas is enrolled in pre-nursing courses at Lower Columbia College and works at St. John as a Certified Nursing Assistant. Her cancer is stage 4 and very aggressive.
“She has overcome it once,” said Ridout, “but when they thought it was all gone and were ready to do reconstructive work, they found it again. Now she’s back at square one.”
Though local businesses displayed signs labeling their doors closed, cars lined Main Street and filled the pharmacy parking lot. Donning t-shirts that read “Team Brandi," community members packed into the lobby of Hotel Cathlamet. Music, provided by local artists, rang through the building, while guests chose from hundreds of desserts, all donated by caring residents.
In an effort to raise money to help Brandi and her children, community members donated gold, purchased raffle tickets and paid for brightly colored flower arrangements, made especially for the event.
A line looped into the back room of the lobby where James Alexander, together with his wife Lorinda, worked tirelessly, pressing t-shirts with a logo chosen just for the event. Pink angel wings escort the loop that is the universal symbol of breast cancer. The only words express support for Brandi and her battle. Alexander accepted early orders so that friends could wear them to the event and gave all of the proceeds to Brandi.
“It was a success and then some,” said Stephanie Prestegard, owner of Hotel Cathlamet.
At the door, guests received a box, signed the guest book, and made their way through the dessert line. Servers filled boxes with tasty treats but visitors left with more than tasty treats. After all, this was about a woman and her fight to get well.
“She’s lost all of her hair and still looks great!” said Ridout of her friend’s condition. “She is smiling and says she just has to live to see her girls grow up.”
In the care of her daughters, loving friends, and sisters,Thomas is staying strong. “We just want her to get well,” said Ridout. “She wants prayers.”
“Lisa Sauer-Ridout was the prime driver of this wonderful event along with many volunteers. Stephanie (Prestegard) offered up the Hotel and saw to it that they had whatever was needed. It took many hands (and tired feet) to make it a success. Kudos to those in our community who care so much...It was a bright shining night!” said Kay Cochran, local business owner.
The Campbell Group opened an account at the Bank of the Pacific under the name Team Brandi. Community members are invited to join in continued fundraising efforts.