Flippin’ Cancer the Bird benefit set for Bruno

by Cori Hilsgen


A Bruno’s Hooters’ benefit, also known as Flippin’ Cancer the Bird, will take place for local business owner Mary Bruno from 3-10 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 16 at the Middy Bar in St. Joseph. The benefit will include live music, food, beverages and a silent auction.

Bruno said she was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer in mid-April. She had a lumpectomy to remove cancer calcifications and also did genetic testing for the cancer gene because her mother, Maryann Bruno, had the same diagnosis about four years ago and a maternal aunt also had breast cancer two years ago.

“I was positive for that gene and informed that once you have had cancer the probability of its recurrence is significantly higher in the breast and ovaries,” Bruno said. “(I) decided to go ahead and be aggressive about getting those body parts out of the picture.”

She said her surgeries were long, and recovery has been painful, but the doctors and nurses did a good job with helping manage the pain through medications.

Bruno said Dr. Paul Mitchell at the St. Cloud Hospital and Dr. John Houle at Midsota Plastic Surgeons in St. Cloud have been wonderful through everything. Both of her two surgeries were performed at the St. Cloud Hospital and a follow-up surgery will be done at Midsota.

“Turns out Drs. Mitchell and Houle are masters at what they do,” Bruno said. “Both are total rockstars and had a great bedside manner and knew exactly how to deal with me. They were not only excellent at what they do, but they always came to check on me personally. They also took the time to explain everything to make me feel heard and understood. Dealing with me and my attitude and mouth cannot be easy, but they were champs with a great sense of humor.”

Bruno said she worried about what she might look like after the surgeries. “The scars are not as bad as I thought,” she said. “I thought I was going to be hideous.”

She said her nurses at the St. Cloud Hospital were also awesome.

“There were so many and they were patient and laughed at my insanity and told me stories when I couldn’t sleep and laughed at me when I swore a lot,” she said.

Bruno is well known in the area for her printing business where she uses a very old printing press that she inherited from her father, Don Bruno, who died of an abdominal aneurism in 2003.

Besides her printing business, Bruno also bartends part-time at the Middy.

She was born in State College, Penn. and moved to St. Joseph when her father accepted a teaching position in the art department at the College of St. Benedict. Bruno graduated from Apollo High School and then earned a bachelor’s degree in printmaking at St. Cloud State University.

“I have worked a million different jobs, but I am a printer by trade,” she said.

Bruno has bartended most of her life for extra cash and said she enjoys it. Her career path has included many other jobs, such as cake decorator, camp counselor, bill collector, pizza-delivery driver, clothing-store retail worker, restaurant manager, stone mosaicist, wood worker and an enrichment coordinator at the National Primate Research Center in Madison, Wis. where she drew blood samples from monkeys.

She said the variety of jobs has all been part of her journey.

Bruno lives in St. Joseph with her dog, Callie, whom she said is “wicked smart and hilarious.” Her mother has been taking “great care” of her throughout her surgeries and recovery.

She also has one older brother, Marty, who is married to Jill and lives in Foley. They have two daughters, Sam, 23, and Lexi, 20.

She said the benefit is happening because of the kindness of many “big wigs” in St. Joseph. Some of them include Will Wittrock at the Middy who is offering his establishment for a fun party; Thomas Cabot and Jeff Vee from Rockhouse Productions, who are working the sound and music; Scherer Trucking for donating the stage; St. Joseph Meat Market for donating the meat; Jeff and Stacie Engholm from the Local Blend; and Police Chief Joel Klein from the St. Joseph Police Department, as well as many others.

Donations for the silent auction will be handled through her “very organized” friend Jodi Millerbernd. Anyone with questions about the silent auction should contact Millerbernd at jmillerbernd@gmail.com.

Bruno is used to being independent and didn’t really want a benefit at first, but others persuaded her to ask for help. Once she allowed herself to accept a little help from her friends, she was overwhelmed by the support she began receiving. She set up an online fundraiser at www.gofundme.com/brunohooters where people could donate money to help fund her medical expenses. She said the online link is going like gangbusters and that it takes her breath away.

Bruno doesn’t want to dwell on her illness but instead wants people to come and enjoy the party. She wants to keep things lighthearted and fun.

“My attitude at this point is ‘(expletive) cancer, let’s party,'” Bruno said.

She said it is so much easier getting through tough stuff when you are having a good time with friends who love you.

“It makes people feel good to help a friend and sometimes a big tough chick like me needs to accept that help no matter how it makes me feel,” she said. “It’s part of growing up, I hear. Though I don’t know a lot about that.”

contributed photo A benefit to help fund local business owner Mary Bruno's medical expenses will be held from 3-10 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 16 at the Middy Bar in St. Joseph. Bruno was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer and recently had several surgeries.

contributed photo
A benefit to help fund local business owner Mary Bruno’s medical expenses will be held from 3-10 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 16 at the Middy Bar in St. Joseph. Bruno was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer and recently had several surgeries.

Cori Hilsgen

Cori Hilsgen


Hilsgen is a contributing reporter for the Newsleaders. The central Minnesota native is a wife, mother and grandmother. She has a Bachelor's degree in Organizational Management and Communication from Concordia University – St. Paul, MN and enjoys learning about and sharing other people's stories through the pages of the Newsleaders.
Cori Hilsgen
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