April 18, 2014

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Jeni Birr has been forced to stop working during treatment for a rare and highly aggressive brain tumor; the same type of tumor that took the life of her father.

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Jeni and Eric Birr

Jeni’s Bid to See 30

Her friends are doing what they can to make sure Jeni Birr of Ferndale sees the age of 30, and they’d like to enlist you in the cause as well.

Birr is the victim of something as tragic as it is unlikely. A few years ago, Birr’s father, who was living in Florida, developed a very rare and aggressive form of brain cancer. Here’s how Birr’s friend and former co-worker Lisa Littell describes what happened.

“Jeni and her boyfriend, Eric, had moved to Florida to live closer to her ailing dad,” Littell says, adding that Jeni often expressed that her dad was her rock, having raised Jeni and her brother alone, as a single parent. “Then her father’s tumor was diagnosed and doctors said he had a month to live; Jeni and Eric, who were engaged at the time, made an instant decision to get married immediately so that Jeni could have her dad walk her down the aisle.”

Three days after her dad’s diagnosis, Littell says, Birr and her fiance and threw together a wedding and got married in her father’s back yard; Birr’s father died six months later.

Littell met Birr after the newlyweds had returned to Michigan from Florida, and the two were working at the same Panera Bread restaurant. As close as Birr was to her father, Littell says she didn’t let others see the pain caused by his loss.

“You would never know she had just experienced something like that,” Littell recalls. “She was so easy to be with and get along with. She just didn’t make a big deal about it [her father’s death] with others.”

Then, this past April, Birr suffered a seizure while at work and had to be rushed to the hospital. That is when doctors discovered that she had the same kind of rare brain tumor that killed her dad.

“They say that there’s nothing hereditary, that it’s just a coincidence, like lightning striking in the same spot twice,” says Littell.

Unable to work and struggling to deal with the aftereffects of surgery, as well as chemo and radiation treatments, Birr soldiers on with the support of Eric. But Littell and another of Birr’s former co-workers, Kristin Kells, wanted to send a loud message that they’re not in this alone. So they came up with the idea of holding a silent auction to raise money for the couple.

Gathering donations of items to be auctioned off — things like bags of Starbucks coffee, gift certificates for haircuts and massages, artwork, etc. — hasn’t been a problem. Littell’s concern now is ensuring a big turnout for the event, which will be held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31, at Champps Americana restaurant, located at 7410 Orchard Lake Rd., West Bloomfield.

If you want to know more about the event, or have items to donate for the auction, you can phone 248-933-5591 or 248-390-1391.

“Even if you don’t buy anything,” says Littell, “having lots of people show up to wish Jeni luck would be tremendous.”

Curt Guyette is Metro Times’ news editor. Send comments to cguyette@metrotimes.com.

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Comments in violation of the rules will be denied, and repeat violators will be banned. Please help police the community by flagging offensive comments for our moderators to review. By posting a comment, you agree to our full terms and conditions. Click here to read terms and conditions.
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