Brenda Beron is a cancer counselor who knows what she’s talking about.
She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1981 and is now in her 35th year as a survivor.
“Because I was a psychotherapist and a cancer survivor, my gynecological oncologist told me I was in a unique position, and he asked if he could refer appropriate patients,” Beron said.
“That’s how it started, and my passion to reach out to others and make a difference in their lives, especially in the cancer community, grew from there.”
Beron, 78, has been very busy these three-and-a-half decades, including volunteering the past 18 years at Gilda’s Club in Royal Oak — the longest-serving facilitator they’ve had.
On April 16, she was honored for her efforts at a gala fundraising dinner of the Belinda Sue Fund for Ovarian Cancer Awareness & Research. The fund was founded by Thomas Nantais, whose wife, Belinda Sue, died of ovarian cancer in 2011 at age 52. Nantais is chief operating officer of the Henry Ford Medical Group. A goal of the fund is to support research for an ovarian cancer screening tool.
“A blood test for early diagnosis of ovarian cancer could save so many women from this terrible disease,” Beron said.
As for the honor, she said, “It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me — I cried.”
She told the attendees at the dinner, “I need to share this honor with all the wonderful, courageous and inspirational women who were and are in the ovarian cancer support group at Gilda’s Club. Over the years, they have developed a unique group. No matter what their individual challenges, they reach out to one another in caring and love. And I am personally grateful to have been allowed to walk even one step with each one of them.
“Belinda Sue or ‘Bindy,’ as we knew her, was a part of the group,” Beron said. “She is sadly missed but never forgotten, as testimony to the wonderful organization that carries her name.”
Beron, who retired as a Gilda’s Club facilitator at the end of last year, received volunteer honors from the organization at events on March 11 and June 1.
Her other work in the cancer community has included co-facilitating with Simona Seiderman an “I Can Cope Group” and co-facilitating with Pat Sachs “N’siah,” a spiritual support group for cancer patients held at synagogues. She is active in the Cancer Thrivers Network for Jewish Women at Jewish Family Service.
She also worked at the Karmanos Cancer Institute where she developed a peer support program for women with breast cancer who were in clinical trials. She also coordinated a community-wide event called “Celebration of Life,” which drew as many as 300 participants.
Beron continues to work three days a week as a marriage and family therapist at Counseling Associates in West Bloomfield. She is the mother of two: Shelli Lempert, a dental hygienist of Walled Lake, and Dr. Philip Beron, a radiation oncologist of Los Angeles. She has three granddaughters: one who is preparing to be a physician’s assistant, one who is preparing to be a teacher and one who is preparing to enter kindergarten.
NOT A ’LONE JOURNEY’
“I did not make this journey alone,” Beron said. “Numerous people have supported me along the way. They have been there and available through good times as well as the challenges.
Beron is very supportive of the mission of the Belinda Sue Fund. “It is so important to find that elusive early diagnostic test for ovarian cancer,” she said.
“With all the advances in medicine they’ve made, they still don’t have any kind of test for early diagnosis of ovarian cancer,” she said.
“We are all hopeful that day is coming — and soon.”
— David Sachs, Detroit Jewish News Senior Copy Editor