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Hope for a healing

Her name is Bernessa, Bernessa Jakle. She is a businesswoman and a journalist, a lover and hero to her husband of 15 years, Patricio Espinoza.

She is the unseen hand in two of Patricio’s Lone Star Emmys, the woman behind the camera filming her husband as he interviewed hurricane victims in the Astrodome.

She is the inspiration behind Patricio’s 25-year journey to a bachelor’s degree, the persuasive partner who urged her husband to stay in school when he wanted to quit.

It wasn’t easy. Weeks before his last final exam at Our Lady of the Lake University, he fell behind in class. He could not study. Bernessa was fighting for her life. Six months later, she fights still. Bernessa has stage 3 ovarian cancer.

She began chemotherapy the week of Thanksgiving. She recently underwent surgery. Between chemo and the knife, Patricio got a tutor and passed his final exam. In December, the veteran broadcast journalist earned a degree in Mass Communications.

To help Bernessa defray medical costs, friends decided to organize a benefit concert. Bernessa tried to stop it. She and Patricio have insurance, she protested, and a foundation helps them with co-payments. Friends insisted. Bernessa resisted.

Finally, everyone agreed on a concert that would also benefit others with ovarian cancer. That’s the short story behind “A Healing Serenade,” an event featuring jazz vocalist Ken Slavin Saturday May 17 at the Whitley Center, a 400-seat venue at The Oblate School of Theology.

Tickets for the concert ($50 each) may be purchased online (http://www.healingserenade.eventbrite.com) or at the Whitley Center, 285 Oblate Drive. Doors open at 6 p.m. with a cash bar. The concert begins at 7.

“The goal is to raise $25,000 with $3,000 donated back to the ThriveWell Foundation,” says Patricio, who has worked with ABC News, Fox News, CNN, WOAI-TV, Univision and Telemundo. “We hope then to create six grants for $500 each to help others.”

It’s called “the silent killer.” Symptoms for ovarian cancer often do not appear until the disease has spread and becomes difficult to treat. A stubborn cough might have saved Bernessa. Antibiotics wouldn’t make it go away. She went to the emergency room. A test was performed. Patricio went numb.

They’ve been inseparable for 20 years, 15 of them as husband and wife. With Bernessa, Patricio’s life was a seamless blend of adventure, mission and work. On an off day from Univision in 2005, they delivered blankets to victims of Hurricane Katrina at the Astrodome. When he spotted a TV crew entering the dome, Patricio grabbed a small camera from his trunk. On the fly, he and Bernessa produced a 12-minute story on the plight of Spanish-speaking evacuees. It won a Lone Star Emmy.

“It was an incredible story,” Bernessa says. “It was so raw. Kids were praying and trying to make best of everything. People were trying to find loved ones. We helped a lot of people.”

Four years later, Bernessa filmed Patricio interviewing Hurricane Ike evacuees in Port San Antonio. That story also won a Lone Star Emmy.

Bernessa lives comfortably in shadow. Her name does not appear on any of her husband’s five golden statuettes, though she helped film two of the winning stories. When Patricio launched a community news website, Bernessa quietly became its managing editor. She runs an online business (Latinworksco.com), rides her bike and quietly battles ovarian cancer.

Patricio and Bernessa are not covering anymore stories. They are producing one of their own. Who could have predicted the twist? Cancer victim and husband seek to raise money for other cancer victims.

“I would like to help another Bernessa out there,” she explains, “who doesn’t have a Patricio.”