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updated: 3/15/2017 1:52 PM

Staying strong 10 years after brain tumor diagnosis

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  • Brooke Bemont, left, was diagnosed with a brain tumor 10 years ago and sister Caleigh has been with her every step of the way. Brooke underwent treatment for her tumor as a 10-year-old student at Munhall School in St. Charles and eventually overcame her illness. She is now a sophomore at Illinois State. Caleigh is a senior at the University of Iowa where she created the Siblings Empowered organization, which helps families cope with illness or loss of a family member.

    Brooke Bemont, left, was diagnosed with a brain tumor 10 years ago and sister Caleigh has been with her every step of the way. Brooke underwent treatment for her tumor as a 10-year-old student at Munhall School in St. Charles and eventually overcame her illness. She is now a sophomore at Illinois State. Caleigh is a senior at the University of Iowa where she created the Siblings Empowered organization, which helps families cope with illness or loss of a family member.
    Courtesy of Caleigh Bemont

 
 

It's not often a note comes to me with a positive update about a person dealing with a brain tumor whom I wrote about 10 years ago.

Next month, it will be a decade since Brooke Bemont of St. Charles first learned she had cancer as a 10-year-old at Munhall Elementary School and eventually underwent numerous chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

Fast forward to today, and she's a healthy sophomore at Illinois State University, studying to be a teacher.

Older sister Caleigh Bemont has felt all along that if she could help others dealing with a sibling's health crisis, it could contribute to a positive approach for families.

Now a senior at the University of Iowa, Caleigh has dedicated much of the past two years to creating Siblings Empowered, an organization providing emotional support to those with brothers or sisters suffering from illnesses or the loss of a sibling.

When taking entrepreneurship classes, she formulated the idea in her mind, basing much of it on a desire to help inspire others. While she juggled her studies and some travel abroad, she came to realize a co-founder could help her develop the concept.

She had first envisioned creating a place in a hospital where Siblings Empowered would be available. But it went beyond that, to become more of a service with a variety of ways to reach people -- after she met Bridgette Blair.

Bridgette approached her at a sorority gathering and suggested also helping those dealing with tragedy beyond illnesses. Bridgette's brother was murdered when she was just a child.

By combining ideas and energy, the two formed the organization that is now in development at the startup lab at the college.

"The most important service is that we are there for them," Caleigh said of those seeking comfort from Siblings Empowered. "We're more than emotional support. It is a place where they can connect with like-minded siblings."

Thoughts can be shared through Twitter, Instagram or by talking in person. "It is a place where they can make it their own and share what they feel comfortable with," Caleigh added. "Looking ahead, we would love to do special events and help out in other ways."

And she couldn't be more thankful for how things have worked out for her sister, considering that April 21 marks 10 years since the family found out about the cancer.

"Cancer might have made life different, but if anything it helped her and I grow closer," Caleigh said. "Don't get me wrong. We still fight, but we also bond over moments -- from the Hannah Montana concert to teaming up on our parents."

10 for Andres:

Andres Restaurant has served breakfast and lunch to Batavians and area residents the past decade. That's right, this unique spot along the Fox River at 5 Webster St. recently celebrated its 10th anniversary.

Owners Horacio and Alejandra Andres have plenty of loyal customers for the fresh American and Spanish dishes they deliver to patrons.

I don't often get a chance to have breakfast in a restaurant, but the few times I have been to Andres it was quite good.

Ali debuts 'Crazy':

Late last year, 13-year-old country singer Ali Morgan of North Aurora shared her story about landing a record contract with Silverado Records in Nashville to launch her country music career.

Here we are only a few months later, and Ali's first song "Crazy" was set to debut last week, with the music video coming out Friday.

It's a catchy tune, along the lines of a Taylor Swift song, which is not surprising considering Chad Carlson produced the record. He's a past Grammy winner who has worked with Swift in the past.

Sad to hear:

My recent note about longing for the old Gilles custard shop in St. Charles to miraculously reappear brought back some memories for reader Joe Garbarski in Campton Township.

He said when his family first moved here, Gilles was the closest place for a sandwich and dessert. He had fond memories of the egg salad sandwich and the custard cake roll he would get for his kids' birthday parties.

But he also mentioned that Gilles owner Jim Lublow passed away earlier this year. I can picture Jim in the shop, but never got to know him too well. Either way, it was sad to hear and maybe my column note serves as somewhat of a tribute to him. It means we still remember.

A sweet Friday:

Speaking of custard, we went to Culver's on a Friday during Lent so I could have one of its tasty walleye sandwiches.

But I did not give up sweets for Lent this time around, so it was a pleasant surprise to see that Chocolate Éclair was the "concrete mixer" custard flavor of the night.

It took all of a few seconds to plunk down my money and order this treat. My toppings? Brownie bits and peanut butter. Need I say anything more?

• dheun@sbcglobal.net

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