Earlier this year, local businessman Rich Addie went from training for summer triathlons and marathons to laying comatose in a hospital in Madison.
Within days, Addie went from having flu-like symptoms to not being able to speak or move his body—not even his eyes, his family said.
Doctors were mystified by what they suspected was a viral infection and why it had caused Addie, a fit, healthy 54-year-old, to develop brain swelling and paralysis that seemed to spread by the hour. In April, doctors at UW-Madison learned from a biopsy that Addie had developed B-cell lymphoma, a type of cancer, in his brain.
Over the last few months, Addie, a Milton resident who operates Addie Water Systems in Janesville, has started rounds of “aggressive” chemotherapy to attack the cancer in his brain, his family said. Sooner than doctors and his family expected, Addie has begun to regain his ability to speak. And most recently, he has begun to walk short distances with a walker and “a lot of help” from staff at a Sun Prairie rehabilitation center, his daughter, Valerie Addie, said.
Rich Addie has a long road to recovery ahead. It could be a year or more before he can come home, his family said. Friends, who know Addie as a “driven” man and a friendly businessman, say they’re hosting a benefit Saturday, June 15, at Lucy’s Hideaway in Milton to help his family with the cost of his ongoing treatment and rehab.
The event, a 5K run/walk called “Run for Rich,” incorporates Addie’s favorite pastime: running. The race starts at 10 a.m. with registration opening at 8, but the benefit doesn’t end at the finish line. Auctions, a barbecue lunch and live music will continue through the afternoon. Proceeds will go to Addie’s family.
Valerie Addie said her dad is a musician, a drummer, and the benefit will feature a performance by the local band Two Left Feet, which Addie used to play in.
Local real estate agent Liane Hasse, a neighbor and friend involved in the benefit, said she believes Addie has a network of people who would want to wish him well and help him and his family—probably a bigger network than he even realizes.
“Half the people who built a new house anywhere in Rock County know Rich Addie,” she said. “He’d have been in their house handling their water systems. People would remember him because he’s a friendly person. Somebody you meet once and you just remember them.”
Milton Area Chamber of Commerce Director Dani Stivarius, a lead organizer of the benefit, called Addie “a very driven person.” She said she believes the benefit will help the family with the costs of Addie’s treatment and help them spend time by his side as he embarks on a monthslong recovery.
Valerie Addie, a college student, said she is considering taking online classes next semester because she and her siblings want to stay close to home to help. She said her dad is working through an arduous process of relearning everything from walking to talking to swallowing.
Valerie said Rich is excited about the benefit, though he won’t be able to leave the rehab facility to attend. She said her dad keeps talking about how he wants to run again, and he’s itching to call in to his business to check in on his co-workers.
“I’ve told him, ‘Dad, you just need to chill,’” Valerie said. “’One thing at a time. Don’t worry about all that right now.’”