Brittany Randle Thayer has lived with cancer and the threat of it for over a decade now. The experience has changed her outlook and direction in life and now her job is seeking to help others in their own battles with the cancer family of diseases.
Thayer, a 2005 graduate of Ceres High School who has battled leukemia since a student, is now executive director of the Chemo Crew, a nonprofit Modesto-based organization that helps cancer patients in various ways.
"Our goal is come along side cancer patients and kind of provide hope and help to them and their families," said Thayer. "We offer support services and try to make sure those tangible needs are met. There's financial support, there's things like going to get groceries, which can be hard if you're not feeling well. A lot of people don't have that support around them and our goal is to be that."
The group also connects cancer patients living in Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties to the myriad of services offered by other agencies as well.
"There's a lot out there that's free. It's hard to find when you're in the middle of the struggle and the mess of the day to day."
The Chemo Crew also provides free "kits" to patients that include encouraging books, information on tips from survivors and candies.
"The side effect of chemotherapy can be ‘metal mouth' so learning that sucking on candies can help with that."
The kits, which are distributed through area hospitals and oncology offices, even includes a cup as a reminder for patients to drink lots of water to "help flush out everything."
Chemo Crew was started by local cancer survivor Bridgette Eilers in 2011. About five years ago, Thayer met Eilers and was inspired to help out.
"I got so excited because it was very personal."
She started volunteering and a few weeks ago Brittany became its executive director and the only paid staff member of the mostly volunteer effort.
"I do all the day-to-day, whether it's phone calls, emails or visiting patients. Oftentimes, even though we have our bags in all these offices, people still slip through the cracks and don't get them so when they reach out to us we either hand deliver them or put them in the mail. Just making sure we have all the supplies for these bags and kits."
She also oversees volunteer days where bags are assembled. Thayer also oversees a month-per-month support group.
Brittany was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) in high school. Her leukemia went into remission but today she is still on a regimen of an oral chemo pill.
"I have no real side effects from it so it's quite a blessing."
She opted for chemo medication and when she was in college the medication made her very sick. Brittany then agreed to undergo a bone marrow transplant in hopes for a permanent cure. Because her immune system was compromised, Brittany had to stay away from the general population. She was taken out of commission for a year. The bone marrow transplant did not do the trick and she was back on chemo but this time had more options.
"It definitely changed the course of my life. Before I was diagnosed I had high hopes and dreams of going off to college to play soccer. It quickly shattered that. Cancer kind of woke me up to there's more to life than sports."
Doctors told Brittany that she would never be able to bear children as a result of the transplant but she ended up having two.
"It's funny how God works those things out," she said.
Thayer said Chemo Crew is in need of volunteers to realize its "big vision" that "no cancer patient would have to go through it alone." Volunteers are needed to assemble kits as well as connect with patients or going along to medical appointments.
"It's often the people that have been affected by it are the ones who really have a heart for it," said Thayer.
Monetary donations are also appreciated.
For more information visit chemocrew.com, call 216-6271, visit 3430 Tully Road, Suite 20-256, Modesto, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.