Middle States

An Unstoppable Woman

A few years ago, Beth Bernabeo showed up at Radnor Racquet Club with zero tennis experience. She had an old-model Prince racquet with rainbow strings and gripped her racquet the same way she held her field hockey stick for the last 20-plus years.


A lifelong, highly-competitive athlete, tennis was a new adventure for Bernabeo. It was something to keep her active and challenge her in a new way. She had no idea the impact tennis would have on her life, just a few short years later.


“You have cancer.”


Bernabeo remembers hearing the news, and the immediate uncertainty that came with it. The 46-year-old mother of three immediately began thinking about all of the “what-ifs.”


“That was the most humbling part: the uncertainty of the whole thing,” Bernabeo said. “At first we didn’t know what stage it was, and what the outlook would be. And of course, you never know what is going to happen long-term.”


Bernabeo calls herself lucky. Doctors caught her cancer early (Stage 1C), and with treatment, the outlook was hopeful.

Beth Bernabeo (left) and Area League Coordinator Sally Baird (right)

“If you have cancer, that’s a good letter and number to have,” she said. “But it’s still cancer. It still kills people.”


Bernabeo learned quickly, though, that there was nothing she could do but fight it and keep as positive an attitude as possible. She leaned on her family and her friends. And she used tennis as motivation.


“Throughout my treatment, I kept telling myself, I’m going to get back onto the court,” Bernabeo said. “With breast cancer like this, they cut your chest muscles. It’s gruesome and painful. But I kept thinking about tennis, and maybe I’m crazy, but I was back on the court training five weeks after my surgery.”


Even crazier? She won a USTA League match just seven weeks after her procedure. 


“I look at this and think, ‘cancer did not change me,’” said Bernabeo, a teacher and consultant. “At least, it did not change who I am and what I can do. Every day we have to deal with what’s in front of us, and that’s all we can do. You don’t get to choose what happens every day, but you do choose how you deal with it.”

Bernabeo is healthy and excited about the years to come. She shouted out her teammates and coaches, including teaching professional Amanda Frantz, who she credited with helping her get back onto the court after her battle with cancer.


“Amanda deserves an award for going above and beyond for me this year,” Bernabeo said. “I owe her so much and think she is just one of a kind.”


She also pointed out the support and friendship of teaching professional Phil Hahn, who she said has gone out of his way to work with her.


“He’s been central this past year,” she said. “I’m very thankful for him and everything he’s done for me.” 

Like all cancer survivors, she has to stay diligent and proactive with her health. A captain of numerous USTA League teams and now the Assistant Tennis Coach at Radnor High School, she’s staying busy on the court — and of course with her kids and family.


“I feel very lucky to have what I have and to be surrounded by my friends and family,” she said.


As far as tennis goes?


“I’ve never played so well,” she said. “And I have a lot more to go."


Cruise Control Gear has joined USTA Middle States in sponsoring our Unstoppable Women in Tennis series, highlighting the incredibly strong women who are forces on and off the court in our Middle States community. 
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