On Aug. 31 almost 300 members of the local music community rallied behind popular singer Angel O’Brien with a fundraiser at Anthology in San Diego. Donations helped defray medical costs in O’Brien’s battle against breast cancer. She was diagnosed with the disease in May.
Serving as emcee for the evening was musician and lead singer of Goldfish, Dave Paskowitz. Steve Lewandowski, announcer at the Rancho Santa Fe Polo Field, served as auctioneer. Clubhouse passes for the Chargers, a package for The Palms in Las Vegas and Fender guitars were among the items donated for auction.
Music was provided by Eve Selis with Marc Twang, Haute Chile, Polyester Express, The Heroes and The Mar Dels.
A graduate of Torrey Pines High School, O’Brien was one of the original members of The Mar Dels when the band formed in 1982. She was only 15. Founder Doug Allen has remained a stalwart friend and helped promote the fundraising event in the local media.
“Everybody loves Angel and would bend over backwards for her,” he said. “She did so much to make The Mar Dels famous, and she’s been a star in so many other groups. She has also given her time and talents to help Children’s Hospital and the Helen Woodward Animal Center and I wanted to help her in any way I could.”
In addition to The Mar Dels, O’Brien has performed with all groups who participated in the benefit. She was founder of Haute Chile along with April Doyle. O’Brien is known throughout the world, from Disneyland to Japan, as well as her participation in the USO, and has performed with stars from Rod Stewart to Tony Bennett.
She extended her appreciation to everyone who attended the benefit by taking the stage and performing.
“You always wonder, if something were to happen to you, who would be standing at your side?” she said. “I looked out from the stage and, for me, it was everyone. My heart was so full and I felt 20 feet tall.”
The benefit generated $22,000 of a $30,000 goal for the evening. A friend in the music business, who requested to remain anonymous, wrote an $8,000 check to make up the difference.
O’Brien’s well-publicized fight with breast cancer draws important attention to the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. According to National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health, these belong to a class of genes known as “tumor suppressors.”
In normal cells, they help ensure the stability of the cell’s genetic material (DNA) and help prevent uncontrolled cell growth. However, mutation of these genes have been linked to the development of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.
This is the case with O’Brien, the youngest of three sisters. Her mother, Darlene, died of breast cancer in 2000. Her oldest sister, Kathleen, tested positive and has an 87 percent chance of developing breast cancer. She is exploring options for prevention. Her middle sister, Brenda, was diagnosed and treated last year with stage two breast cancer.
“The love, moral support and strength of family are all very important factors in healing,” Brenda said. “However, I think one of the most important characteristics of our family is the fact that we can make each other laugh. They don’t say that laughter is the best medicine for nothing, and, as long as we all shall live, we will keep the prescription of laughter filled for one another.”
BRCA gene mutations also affect men. According to the National Cancer Institute, “Men with harmful BRCA1 mutations also have an increased risk of breast cancer and, possibly, of pancreatic cancer, testicular cancer, and early-onset prostate cancer. However, male breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, and prostate cancer appear to be more strongly associated with BRCA2 gene mutations.”
A blood sample is required for genetic testing for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations. This is highly recommended along with genetic counseling before and after the tests.
For more information about O’Brien’s journey, visit caringbridge.org/visit/angelobri.
To make a donation, visit goo.gl/Blv9e. To visit O’Brien eBay store, “Runway Finds,” visit http://stores.ebay.com/Runway-Finds.