LEARN ABOUT THE BHU WATER CREW
Adam’s two daughters keep him plenty busy in his spare time, but not so much so that he can’t get to the occasional demolition derby. Adam became full owner of Ben Holzer Unlimited Water in 2016 right before his father passed away. Everyday Adam’s goal is to continue to honor his father by doing business the same way his father did by providing customers with a quality service at an affordable price. When you call Ben Holzer Unlimited Water you get personalized service from an experienced guy who has spent his life treating all of the area’s worst water problems.
Ben was grateful and profoundly humbled by his hometown for their love and support during his battle with a rare form of cancer in 2014. Ben passed away in 2016, but his legacy of hard work, quality service and commitment to the success of the area he so loved still lives on. That we may rely on our neighbors in a moment of need, and to receive so much from them — that is the meaning of brotherhood. “To love another person is to see the face of God.”
Coping with Cancer, with Community Support
He Thought it was Just a Hernia
“I had a lump under my left rib,” explained Ben Holzer, a 58-year-old life-long resident of the Perham area who said he has been called “disgustingly healthy” by doctors in the past. “When I went in to the doctor, he thought it was my spleen that was enlarged.”
Ben and his wife, Char, are long-time members at St. Henry’s Catholic Church in Perham, and have been the core of Ben Holzer Unlimited for more than 25 years, providing water softener and bottled water services all around Otter Tail and Becker counties.
When the lump didn’t go away or shrink, tests started. An MRI and CT scan showed masses on the inside of Ben’s abdomen, but a colonoscopy, endoscopy and blood tests all came back clear.
“The MRI showed there was peritoneal carcinomatosis, but we didn’t understand what that was,” Char said. That was, until the doctor said they would be referred to oncology.
It wasn’t a hernia or enlarged spleen – it was cancer in Ben’s abdominal tissue.
“I started doing a whole lot of research on it when we got home,” Char said of the cancer. “It’s so rare, that it wasn’t really coming up anywhere on any medical facility’s sites, like the Mayo Clinic, Rodger Maris Center. And then, God led me to Cancer Treatment Centers of America.”
“It was tough at first,” Ben said of the adjustment to realizing he had cancer. After all, he felt fine.
Ben and Char were on a plane to Chicago, Ill., less than a week later to get a consult from the center’s Midwestern location.
On June 19, the Holzers arrived in Chicago. Ben had a biopsy on June 30. By July 2, the cancer was confirmed, and tests showed its primary source was the colon. Later, they learned, it actually started out as cancer of the appendix, which is very slow-growing and almost undetectable. Those cancer cells then metastasized and spread.
Ben had a procedure called cytoreductive surgery on July 11. During the operation, the surgeon removed as much of the cancer as possible, including any non-vital, affected organs.
“He told me that he was able to remove 99 percent of the cancer,” Char wrote of a discussion with Ben’s surgeon in a July 11 CaringBridge journal post. “However, he did have to remove the entire large intestine, part of the small intestine, the appendix, the gall bladder and half of the stomach.”
Char explained that the nickname of peritoneal carcinomatosis is “jelly belly cancer,” because the tumors that spread and grow look like little jelly-like fish eggs inside the abdomen.
The surgery was immediately followed by 90 minutes of hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC). Chemo therapeutic fluid, heated to around 107 degrees Fahrenheit, was used to try to eliminate any microscopic cancer cells that couldn’t be otherwise removed.
In all, Ben was in the operating room for 13.5 hours that day.
After a series of ups and downs during recovery, Ben and Char were finally able to return home on August 5, although since then there have been several trips back to Chicago for other follow-up doctor appointments.
The Holzers’ need for travel has been reduced since they were able to arrange co-managed care with Lake Region Cancer Center in Fergus Falls.
Ben has been undergoing chemo treatments every-other-week. He recently finished the seventh of 12 rounds. After the last session, he’ll get a short break, followed by another round of 12 sessions – this will be the pattern for the rest of Ben’s life, along with monitoring to keep an eye on any new, abnormal cell growth.
Chemo has been rough for Ben, who has lost more than 40 pounds since beginning treatment, and now weighs less than he did when graduating from high school.
Char said they were told that the average life expectancy with this form of cancer is 2 years. Even with these challenges and hurdles, Ben and Char remain optimistic.
“We’re hoping to beat those statistics,” Char said. Since Ben was diagnosed, the Holzers have seen and felt a massive outpouring of support.
“The Perham community is awesome, and the surrounding towns,” Char said. “What a great community we come from; we can’t say enough about everybody – our church, our friends, our family and the neighboring communities. I truly believe that, through prayers, that’s how we’re able to cope.”
Ben said he had someone ask how he’s doing because his knees were sore from praying so much. “I told him to get some kneepads,” Ben said with a grin. “I’ve got a long ways to go.”
“I told him to get some kneepads,” Ben said with a grin. “I’ve got a long ways to go.”
To give the Holzer family some extra support, two fundraisers have been held in the Perham community.
The first was through the Wild Goose and Goose Gang, headed by owner Sue Huebsch. It was held on Nov. 7, which happened to be Ben’s birthday. All proceeds from coffee and popcorn sales went to the Holzer family.
Huebsch, who is also a member of St. Henry’s, said she was overwhelmed by the community’s generosity that day. They started brewing coffee at 5 a.m., with carts full of cups already labeled for orders, she said. They had gigantic orders from employees at Barrel O’ Fun and even the New York Mills School.
Although insulated cups were flying out of the shop, Huebsch said tips made up the majority of the final total. She sees it as a step farther in the “it takes a village” mindset, where it also takes a village to help and support its members when needed.
After that, on Dec. 3, New Creation Lutheran Church in Perham gave the Holzers the proceeds from their weekly community meal.
“That was so generous of everyone to donate to that,” Char said of the fundraisers. In return, she said, they donated half of what was collected on Dec. 3 to the family of Bryce Thalmann, an area toddler facing his own cancer battle.
As Ben continues to recover at home, he is still helping out Char with the office-side of the family business. Their son, Adam, has taken charge of the deliveries and other physical work.
“It’s tough, but we’re managing,” Char said. “We’re still here!”