She was told her ovarian cancer was too far along to be stopped. Unwilling to succumb to such a grim prognosis, Linda Verbout of Harlingen sought a second opinion at MD Anderson. It gave Verbout time — four extra years — to fight back in a way that would transcend her own struggles and offer hope to others.
“She would say, ‘This is happening for a reason,’” recalls Darlene Gonzalez, Verbout’s daughter, of San Antonio.
The reason became clear to Gonzalez at a concert one summer night in 2010 when the performer mentioned she had lost her mother to ovarian cancer. Gonzalez remembers feeling as if a light bulb had gone off in her head.
“I called my mom that night,” says Gonzalez. “She was going through chemotherapy at the time. I told her, ‘There is a reason you’re going through this. Here’s what we have to do…’"
Soon after, the Believers Inspiring Survivors for Hope (BISH) Foundation was born. Gonzalez and her husband, Adrian, serve on the board of directors, as did Verbout, until she lost her battle in July.
“She fought it for four long years. Her attitude just amazed me. She was always so positive,” Gonzalez says.
BISH donated $20,000 to MD Anderson in 2012 and plans to donate $25,000 this year. The foundation raises funds through sales of “Radiating Recipes” cookbooks, complete with 600 cancer patients’, survivors’ and caregivers’ recipes, including those of Verbout, an avid cook. BISH also has a music festival in May, but its biggest event is the “Santa” Antonio 5K in December, when participants run through downtown San Antonio in Santa suits.
Pedro Ramirez, M.D., professor of gynecological oncology, treated Verbout and her mother, Anna Mae Tramp, making Verbout a caregiver and cancer fighter simultaneously. Ramirez developed a strong bond with all three generations of women. Verbout often referred to him as her guardian angel.
Ramirez remembers Gonzalez and Verbout nearly bursting with excitement as they formulated plans to start BISH.
“They were enthusiastic about contributing to finding a cure,” he says.
Verbout presented BISH’s first $20,000 contribution to Ramirez. He proudly hangs a memento from that occasion in his exam room.
Gonzalez says she’s even more driven now to continue the foundation’s mission and give back to MD Anderson in honor of her mother and grandmother.
“What MD Anderson did for both of them was just phenomenal,” she says.
Ramirez says Gonzalez’s dedication to MD Anderson following the loss of her mother and grandmother is gratifying.
“To know that you inspired someone to make a difference is incredibly rewarding,” he says.
Gonzalez looks forward to continuing her relationship with MD Anderson while maintaining her full-time career as a banker. She hopes to incorporate cancer prevention into BISH’s activities while expanding its current fundraisers.