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Benefit to help Hormel retiree deal with brain tumor

Published 10:13am Monday, January 14, 2013

Joe Bellrichard is still wondering how all this effort to raise funds for his cancer treatment got so prominent. Fliers, Facebook posts and now a news article, and Bellrichard is still amazed.


“It’s getting bigger than I thought,” he said Friday. “I didn’t realize how big it’s getting.”

Yet organizers for an upcoming benefit say if anyone deserves the attention, it’s Bellrichard. A Navy Reserves veteran who worked for Hormel Foods for 39 and a half years, Bellrichard is known for his happy attitude and his jokes. Now that positivity is coming back to him, as he’s getting help fighting off cancer and a tumor in his head.

“He’s a great guy,” said his daughter, Bridget Bellrichard. “He always has a good joke, he’s pretty outgoing, very friendly, very likable, he gets along with everybody or tries to get along with everybody.”

Joe didn’t feel very outgoing one Sunday last July, when he complained to his wife Susan of having a large headache all day. When it wouldn’t subside that night, his wife thought the 68-year-old should go to the hospital.

Joe and his wife went to the emergency room at about 2 a.m., and after some examining and a CT scan, doctors found a tumor in his head. By 5:30 a.m. that morning, Joe was riding in an ambulance to St. Marys Hospital in Rochester.

That was the beginning of a two-week stint in the hospital for Joe. Doctors diagnosed him with a neuroendocrine tumor, meaning he had a tumor in his head, in front of his brain wall and right behind his sinus cavity. They told Joe there were less than 30 people in the world with such a tumor.

“I told him, ‘Dad, I knew you were special, but did you have to be this special?’” Bridget said.

What’s more, Joe came down with a severe case of meningitis as a result, which is what caused his headaches. While Joe spent the next 12 days in the hospital recovering from meningitis, doctors found he had colon cancer, and he went from borderline to fully diabetic.

Joe has surgery and completed chemotherapy to deal with his cancer, but his tumor is a little more difficult to deal with. Doctors say it’s too risky to operate on the tumor, given where it is, so Joe is taking chemo in pill form. While the pills usually deal with lung cancer and tumors, doctors told Joe the pills will deliver chemo and radiation to his head better than normal treatment could.

It hasn’t been easy for Joe, as doctors upped his chemo dosage when he was in regular treatment, and he has to go in about two to three times a week for various side effects. Still, Joe is feeling pretty good at the moment, and he’s more worried about his family than himself.

“It’s been a tough year for the wife and the family, going back and forth to Rochester,” he said.

Friends and family members are organizing a benefit at the Eagles Club this weekend to help the Bellrichards cover medical expenses. The event is organized by Dave Gordon and his wife, who met Joe several years ago.

“This is just something I felt someone needed to do, so I took it on,” Gordon said. “This is just something for people to do something tangible.”

The benefit will take place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 20, at the Austin Eagles Club. There will be a pulled pork meal for $8, with tickets sold in advance. In addition, a silent auction, bake sale and raffle are planned, and organizers are asking community members and businesses to donate an item, certificate or cash for the auction.

In addition, residents can donate to the Joe Bellrichard Benefit at Accentra Credit Union. Residents can call 507-433-2580 or 437-1796 with questions or donated item arrangements.

Though the attention may be on Joe, he knows all this wouldn’t have been possible without a positive outlook, a lot of prayer, and some good friends to help.

“I’ve got some great friends, a lot of people praying for me,” Joe said. “I’m fortunate to have that.”

Joe Bellrichard Benefit

Where: Austin Eagles Club, 107 11th St. NE

When: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 20

Why: Bellrichard is battling a tumor and cancer

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