Janesville's Brigette and Bruce Thoms combine to help cancer patients
The Thoms rushed to the hospital and followed the patient to the drugstore so they could pay for her prescription.
Another time, while vacationing in Door County, the Thoms got a call from a local hospice about the need for a window air conditioner for a female cancer patient who wouldn't be allowed to stay in her homeŚwhere she wanted to die with dignity during last summer's heat waveŚwithout it.
The Thoms made some calls, and the unit got delivered.
Those are two examples of the 25 cancer patients who have been touched by the Thoms' generosity since they founded the Rock County Cancer Coalition in June 2011.
Along with other coalition members, they raise and distribute money that directly benefits cancer patients in Rock County.
"There's so much more we'd like to do to make their lives a little bit easier," Bruce said.
For now, however, "we want to let them know somebody cares and that we'll keep fighting if they keep fighting," Brigette said.
The Rock County natives are high school sweethearts who graduated in 1980 from Milton High School. In April, they will celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary.
Their dream is for the coalition to be able to double its $500 gift to each cancer patient because the Thoms know how emotionally and financially devastating cancer can be.
The couple draws from each other's strengths to help others.
"She's why I am what I amŚcaring, thoughtful, respectful, considerate and on time," Bruce said fondly of Brigette. "When she got involved, I was right behind her. We're a duo joined at the hip."
Brigette has always been there for Bruce.
She helped him fight for his life after the vehicle he was driving home from work on a foggy morning hit a moving train. Doctors told Brigette they didn't think Bruce would live.
When Bruce was diagnosed with high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes six years ago, he made a lifestyle change so he could be a positive role model for his sons. He also wanted to live a healthy, long life so he and Brigette could continue their mission.
While working with Relay for Life and American Cancer Society, the Thoms repeatedly heard how Rock County people needed help, so they founded the coalition.
"It's neighbors helping neighbors," Brigette said.
"A lot (of people) need help, but there's no place to get it. We help with basic needs such as paying the rent," Bruce said.
"We'd like to help people more and with research. We want dollars raised to go directly where it's going to help," Brigette said.
And they have.
A female cancer survivor said Brigette and the coalition helped her when everything was spinning out of control.
"I'm independent and never had to ask for help for anything. But when you're fighting for your life, don't know which direction to go and wondering how you're going to keep afloat, I reached out (to them).
"Brigette is wonderful, nice and thoughtful. She's called a couple times to make sure I was doing OK and asked if there was anything she could help with. They were very helpful and someone to lean on and talk to, to keep my spirits up."