Daily Herald: Staying Strong 10 Years After Brain Tumor Diagnosis

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Brooke and Caleigh Bemont
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.

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 Bridget Blair.

Bridget 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.”

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