Friends and relatives of the Whitfill family have been fundraising at many events throughout the summer in an effort to help offset the medical costs associated with the late Tom Whitfill’s Stage 4 Metastatic cancer diagnosis in June of 2016.
    Among the many fundraising opportunities, a Tom Whitfill Cancer Benefit event is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 18, at the Walton Centre in Fairbury. Although Whitfill died on Sept. 28, his medical bills still impact the family and the decision was made to continue with the benefit with the addition of a celebration of life.
    In an article called “Cancer: Our Life Changing Journey,” Whitfill’s wife, Becky, recalled the events of her husband’s treatment. The Whitfill, who had turned 62 nine days before his passing, was married to Becky for 43 years. He spent 40 years as an over-the-road truck driver and was the father of two children and had five grandchildren ranging in ages from 8 to 14. The entire family lives in Fairbury and Becky says they are all very close.
    “The grandkids come to our house after school every day possible, they are our heart and soul,” she wrote. “They are busy with sports and two of them race go-karts. Tom and I have tried to attend everything we can over the years. We love to camp with the kids and Tom enjoyed taking the grandkids to the stock car races on Saturday nights here in Fairbury.”
    Whitfill started experiencing symptoms in June 2016, at the time he was sitting at his father’s bedside before his father’s passing. Becky recalls her husband had lost 35 pounds and was getting sick when he ate or drank.
    “He missed out on the grandkids’ sports and racing because he felt so poorly,” she wrote. “We suspected he needed his esophagus stretched but that was not the case. After having tests run and spending time in two different hospitals he was diagnosed with Stage 4 Metastatic cancer with the colon being the primary.”
    Whitfill and his family kept pushing forward after stents were inserted, 12 rounds of chemo administered and two visits to the hospital for infections and fevers. Although the feelings of frustration, tears, pain, nausea and utter despair were present, Becky and her family pushed through.
    “We returned to Mayo Clinic in Minnesota for testing and scans in January of 2017. The results were great and the doctor called him a miracle. He was put on 12 chemo pills a day,” Becky wrote. “Tom started feeling better and gaining weight. However, it was short-lived. In February he was again not feeling well. We returned to Mayo Clinic in March and the scan showed his cancer had returned in full force. We were devastated.”
    Because of his illness, Whitfill was unable to return to work. He hadn’t worked since shortly after his diagnosis and the hospital bills were continuing to pile up. Becky cleans houses for a living  and doesn’t have access to group insurance.
    “I tried to keep up with my job but caring for Tom was my priority,” Becky wrote. “We were both exhausted mentally and physically but we kept moving forward. Many times, it was the kids or the grandkids giving him pep talks and encouraging him to keep fighting.”
    Tammy Ward, Becky’s sister, said one day Whitfill was told he was too weak for chemotherapy. Whitfill made the decision to go on hospice on his birthday, Sept. 19, and he died on Sept. 28.
    “We’re still going ahead with the benefit because there are still those hospital bills to pay,” Ward said. “We’re adding a celebration of life to the event because Tom didn’t want a visitation and at the time Becky really didn’t want that either, his death was really hard on her. But then, she said she would like to have a celebration of life in his honor.”
    The event will be held Nov. 18, at the Walton Centre in Fairbury. A pulled pork meal will be served for the cost of an open donation from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. The celebration of life will be at 6 p.m. A live auction, silent auction and golf cart raffle will begin at 6:30 p.m. and the evening is scheduled to end around 11 p.m.
    “We don’t have any set amount of money to raise,” Ward said. “We went around and asked for auction items from local businesses. Local people have been amazing with their donations for this event.”