How one family has remembered their beloved mother and daughter - and made a difference in the lives of other cancer patients.
Ridgefield resident Beth Bjorlin was only 41 years old-in the full bloom of life-when she lost her valiant fight against inflammatory breast cancer.
Beth and her husband, Scott, had been married just 9 years, and they had two daughters, Kari, now 8, and little Kristen, 5.
"Inflammatory breast cancer can be a very aggressive form of the disease," says Lee Ann Riley, executive director of the Norma F. Pfriem Breast Care Center at Bridgeport Hospital and herself a breast cancer survivor. "This particular type of breast cancer usually has a rather poor prognosis. However, with aggressive treatment, patients can do well for longer periods of time."
Knowing this, Beth strongly wished to live long enough for her youngest child (only six months old when her mother was diagnosed) to have happy, loving memories of her.
Though they lived in Ridgefield, Beth and Scott came to The Norma F. Pfriem Breast Care Center several times to consult with specialists and get second opinions and expert advice. Besides Bridgeport Hospital´s own oncologists, pathologists, and other cancer specialists, the Center-as a member of the National Consortium of Breast Centers- has connections to major breast centers across the country. This means that the broadest expertise is available to our cancer patients.
Lee Ann and Sally Cascella, RN, even went to Beth´s home to help with pain management when Beth was too ill to make the drive to Fairfield.
With deep determination, the total support of her family, and the help of her doctors and The Norma F. Pfriem Breast Care Center, Beth reached her goal, living 3. years. Little Kristen and big sister Kari both have wonderful, fulfilling memories of their mother.
At the time of Beth´s death, the Center was creating its new Fairfield office. In gratitude for the wonderful help the Center gave Beth, Scott Bjorlin and Beth´s parents, Robert and Kay Falise, requested that donations in Beth´s memory be made to The Norma F. Pfriem Breast Care Center in support of this effort. The result was a total of more than $37,000, given in Beth´s memory by her many friends; her employer, PepsiCo; her co-workers; and her family.
Also in Beth´s memory, the 8-by-12-foot Rose of Hope Mural gracing the entrance of the Breast Care Center´s Fairfield office was named "Beth´s Garden." Individual elements in the Mural could be selected and paid for by people who donated to the Center. Beth´s parents personally purchased the gazebo, and the two baby swans are for Kari and Kristen.
The Mural enhances the atmosphere of comfort, serenity, and healing at the Center.
"The Fairfield site offers serene, comfortable surroundings for our breast cancer patients. Physician consultation, a state-of-the-art infusion (chemotherapy) center, and a wide variety of support groups are available here, as well as individual counseling, massage, and Reiki therapies," says Lee Ann Riley. "The office offers an entire spectrum of integrative therapies beyond the clinical care and coordination that form the core of our services-the services that were so helpful to Beth Bjorlin and her family."
For more information about The Norma F. Pfriem Breast Care Center, call the Fairfield office, 203-384-3392, or the Bridgeport Hospital office, 203-384-3392. Or stop by the Fairfield office, 111 Beach Road, any time to see Beth´s Garden, created in memory of a much-loved daughter, wife, and mother.
Mural by Jack Czapka, Ranney Design, Fairfield