When Fred Berren married his college sweetheart, he couldn’t have imagined she would be diagnosed with breast cancer at age 32. Jody Berren battled the disease for seven years, and sadly passed away this past January. She left behind her husband, two young children – and an amazing legacy. For years, Jodie was the captain of the Southern Maine “Relay for Life” team, which became known as “Hope On the Move.” It’s an all-night event, being held this year at the Kennebunk High School track on June 21st. In the middle of the night, when people were exhausted and not sure if they could make their turn around the track, they would look up and see Jody – determined and joyful to be helping others. They would think “if Jodie can do this – then so can I.” In fact, it’s that motto – “What Would Jody Do,” that has become Fred Berren’s mantra. Jody told him her biggest fear wasn’t losing her battle with cancer. It was being forgotten. Fred will never let that happen. This year, Fred is serving as the captain of the “Hope On the Move” team. He has set a lofty fundraising goal of $20,000 and is well on his way. He was the opening speaker at the kickoff event and he’ll be there as the opening speaker at the start of the Relay in just a few weeks. He’ll talk about how Jody was one of the most positive people you will ever meet. About how she never lost faith, and how she battled ferociously every step of the way – even when the cancer had spread to her brain. Fred says all he wants to do now is “make Jody proud,” and make his kids proud, too.
Fred’s story reminds me so much of that of a dear friend of mind, Ann Murray Paige. Ann died recently of breast cancer that had also spread to her brain. She was a light in the world – sharing her story every step of the way in a brilliant documentary, “The Breast Cancer Diaries” and on her blog and foundation website, “Project Pink.” Ann’s husband Sandy is left to carry on her amazing spirit and legacy of “always seeing the glass half-full,” while raising their two young children.
As we head into Father’s Day, I ask you to think of these two brave men, who were there every step of the way as their beautiful, vibrant and passionate wives – the mothers of their children – fought a terrible disease. And even though they have passed away, they continue to show us how to live.
Think about “Making A Difference” this Father’s Day, by showing these amazing women – and two very brave Dads – some love and support.
Here are the links to the Relay for Life team for Jody Berren, and Ann’s inspiring speech as she shared her story at a Mass General event celebrating 100 people who have dedicated their lives to fighting cancer.