SOLDOTNA, Alaska (AP) — Soldotna resident September Klumb has never been the type of person who would give up the fight.
Despite all the turmoil of the past two years in her battle with cervical cancer and seven punishing rounds of chemotherapy that dropped her weight down to 103 pounds, Klumb, a mother of five, does not let her failing health become an excuse.
Family, friends and strangers came together on Feb. 1 for one day to raise $30,000 to get Klumb to a cancer treatment center. On perhaps the biggest day in her life, Klumb was where you might expect to find her, working at the Soldotna Fred Meyers.
"I don't know what I would do without work," she said. "If you stay home you get depressed and a lot of people give up hope and lose the battle. I'm not one of those people who take things lying down."
Katherine Covey of Ninilchick, who has organized numerous fundraisers for cancer patients, said she was asked if she would help Klumb. Covey did not know her, but had seen her at the store and admired her determination to continue to work.
"We all have seen how (the cancer) has taken a hold of her," she said. "She puts in our face what we all fear. Everybody fears cancer, but she doesn't let it stop her from living her live. She is a tough cookie."
In just one week, Covey organized a campaign on Facebook, $30K in a Day for September, a one-day Peninsula-wide event to help September get to International Bio Care Cancer Treatment Center in Tijuana, Mexico. The page has more than 700 likes with many people offering their support and asking where to donate, Covey said.
Klumb had heard about the IBC center from Robin Eberline a member of her church. Rick Abbott, Soldotna branch manager of Spenard's Building Supply had also talked to her about the treatment he received from IBC. Abbott went to IBC after being diagnosed with lymphoma and leukemia and is now free of cancer.
Doctors have told Klumb there is no cure for her type of cancer and that all that could be done is put her in palliative care to make her comfortable. She said the treatment at IBC would be less traumatic on her body. With all the positives she has heard, she said she is willing to try anything.
This past Saturday, more than 25 volunteers canvassed the area setting up donation stations all over Soldotna and Kenai. Friends and strangers gathered and set up locations at Spenard's Building Supply, Trustworthy Hardware, Sportsman's Warehouse, and in multiple parking lots along the highway. KSRM radio set up a live broadcast at Stanley Ford in Kenai and nearly $5,000 was donated at that location alone.
Klumb said she could not describe how much the support from the community meant to her.
"I didn't think that many people knew me," she said. "People are taking time out of their day to do this. It is very inspiring."
Charce Dunn of Soldotna came out to help raise money, despite not knowing Klumb. She said she saw the Facebook post and felt God was leading her to help.
"I got so excited and feel blessed to be out here," she said. "I pray I don't let September down. I hope she beats this ugly 'C' word and she can finish raising her children."
Soldotna resident Sharon Tyone, who used to work with Klumb at Fred Meyers, was one of the volunteers. She brought a huge dipnet with a purple cloth to catch money from passing motorists on the Kenai Spur Highway. Tyone said this was the first fundraiser she has ever been involved with.
"I have been along with (Klumb) for the whole story," she said. "It just tugged on my heart strings."
Former Fred Meyers co-worker Joanne Jenkins worked with Klumb for 12 years. She said Klumb started out pushing carts and worked her way up to assistant manager. Jenkins said she trained her to work at the customer service desk and she became one of the best employees the store has ever seen.
"She makes you want to be a better person," she said.
Jenkins, who now works for Peninsula Community Health Services, said she has seen Klumb go through so many trials from the cancer going into remission, to the loss of her son just two days after being born after her cancer re-emerged.
"She would go to chemo treatments then be at work two days later," she said. "When people would call in sick they would have to talk to her."
Klumb said one of her darkest days was when she found out she had cancer when she was pregnant and had to decide whether to terminate the pregnancy and undergo treatment or wait until delivery.
Through it all Klumb said her co-workers have always been like a family to her. When her son died and she went to treatment in Anchorage, her co-workers bought her flowers and came together to buy school clothes for her kids.
Klumb grew up in a big family, moving to Alaska from Salt Lake City, Utah when she was a junior in high school. While she has never been outside the country, she toured the Lower 48 in a motor home with her grandparents, mother and twin sister when she was 2 years old.
Klumb said while she is not an affectionate person, she has learned to let people inside her bubble. She said her kids, the oldest Elias, 12, and youngest Lucas, 5, have helped out so much and have been so well behaved.
Saturday evening an auction was held at Hooligan's Lounge. A packed house raised totals close to $5,000, Covey said. Klumb got off work to attend the auction along with her family.
Donations started with a jar at local coffee stands last week and have expanded to several businesses donating, Covey said. Alicia Glessing, owner of CrochetMommyAK in Soldotna, will be donating all her February profits to Klumb. Other local businesses, including Spenard's and Stanley Ford have also offered generous donations, she said.
A majority of the fundraising came in Saturday with several stations raising nearly $5,000. Covey said while they do not have exact figures yet, she estimates on Saturday alone the goal was more than halfway reached. She said she is confident that Klumb will be going to Mexico.
Covey said the compassion she has seen from the community is heartwarming.
"Cancer has affected so many people's lives," she said. "When you have such a worthy cause to help someone in need, people in passion respond."
While she feels so tired after a full day of working, being active and moving around is a lot better than sitting around feeling sorry for herself, she said.
"Everybody needs to make a living," she said. "There are days I would not want to get out of bed, but I will not let cancer win. I am a fighter."
For anyone interested in donating, Covey said visit the Facebook page for more information. https://www.facebook.com/30kinaday4september
Information from: (Kenai, Alaska) Peninsula Clarion, http://www.peninsulaclarion.com