Sound Seekers

SOUND SEEKERS: Rockin’ and rollin’ in the name of Jennifer Berrigan — Kevin Earle pays tribute and raises money

Sound Seekers by Fateema Sayani is published weekly at Read Fateema Sayani’s culture column in Ottawa Magazine and follow her on Twitter @fateemasayani

Jennifer Berrigan

Jennifer Berrigan died earlier this year at the age of 30. She received a diagnosis of cervical cancer in April 2011 at the age of 29 and was declared clear of it after a radical hysterectomy, oophorectomy, lymphadenectomy, six cycles of aggressive chemotherapy, and 25 treatments of radiation therapy.

“She rang the bell at the cancer centre to declare that it was gone,” says Kevin Earle, a lifelong pal of Berrigan’s. Their parents are best friends and Earle and Berrigan grew up like siblings in Ottawa. “By December, we were popping champagne corks and celebrating.”

The next month, while vacationing in Montebello, QC, Berrigan felt dizzy and couldn’t see. She went to the hospital and an MRI scan revealed the cancer had spread to her brain. It was devastating news, as the chance of cancer spreading from her cervix to her brain was reportedly minimal. Four days later, she had another MRI to prepare for surgery and it showed that the cancer had spread further. Surgery was no longer an option and Berrigan went on to terminal care. She died in March of this year.

“Jen was so positive and one of the strongest people I know,” Earle says. “It was most evident when she found out she was going to die. She went out of her way to make sure her family and friends were emotionally ready for her death. She even planned her own funeral right down to what she would wear in her casket — a sweatshirt and her favourite DC shoes.”

Before she died, Earle visited Berrigan at the Bruyere Continuing Care centre and promised he would preserve her legacy. He’s doing that by volunteering with Fertile Future, a non-profit organization that provides cancer patients — who will be left infertile after treatment — with information on how to preserve their fertility.

Berrigan and her boyfriend used Fertile Future’s services to arrange to have seven embryos frozen before her aggressive cancer treatment took place. She had planned to use them with a surrogate mother. Last October, Earle organized a night of rock called The Jennefit to defray medical costs for the cancer treatment and future surrogacy and raised $8,000.

And What Army? Photographed by Bryan Jones. Left to right: Kevin Earle, Ryan Hillier, Johnny Nash.

This weekend he’s hosting the Jennefit 2, with proceeds going toward the Jenn Berrigan Memorial Fund at Fertile Future to help other women who want to have children after cancer.

The Matt Dorgan Project, Right By Midnight, Bucket List and DJ Nola Kiss will play, along with And What Army?, Earle’s punk band.

Earle is hoping to raise $10,000 for the fund and to one day make The Jennefit an official charity.

“Everyone has something nice to say about people who die,” Earle says, “but there’s a reason Fertile Future made a fund for Jenn. She went out of her way for a lot of people.”

The Jennefit takes place Saturday, August 25, at Greenfield’s Pub in Barrhaven. 8 p.m. $10.

A bunch of Ottawa punk bands will gather Saturday at the Vincent Massey Park bandstand for a family-friendly afternoon of music. Bring your lil’ Johnny Rottens and a paper cup to hide your beer. On the bill: Patrick Shanks, The City Above, The Johnnies, Thunderuncle, The Allrights, Mono Hum, Mnemonics, and Finderskeepers.

Wakefest is a festival of music and art that plays up the yuppie-hippie vibe of Wakefield, Quebec. This fest — starting tonight and continuing until Sunday — allows residents and visitors to participate in a bit of myth-making about the community, which I’ve heard described as anything from a natural oasis, to being inhabited by the kinds of characters you’d see on Corner Gas. There’s a full bill of music too, including tunes by Ottawa singer-songwriter Matt Ouimet.

Ottawa band Ninety Pounds of Ugly (hell-raising lounge music) plays Irene’s Pub Friday with Montreal hillbilly band Eddy Blake & The Honky Tonk Heartbreakers. 885 Bank St., 9 p.m., $8.