When entrepreneur Rebecca Romero Beiber launched her food truck, the Retro Wagon, in Fort Bragg in 2022, she knew one thing: she wanted to serve American comfort food and diner classics to hungry travelers along California Route 1.
Eggy breakfast sandwiches, grilled cheese, juicy burgers, chicken noodle soup, pulled pork. That’s all Romero Beiber wanted to serve up to diners. And just as she started to get a dedicated following of customers, especially among first responders and CalTrans, PG&E, AT&T and other blue collar field workers, Romero Beiber was diagnosed with breast cancer at the beginning of April 2023. It was less than 10 months after the Retro Wagon opened.
The day after her diagnosis, Romero Beiber sent an email to the Cancer Resource Centers of Mendocino County (CRC Mendocino), something her doctor recommended. The nonprofit’s mission is “to improve the quality of life for anyone facing cancer in Mendocino County.” CRC Mendocino provides medical appointment preparation and accompaniment, transportation to and from medical appointments, emergency financial help, support groups and more.
Responding to her email, she received a phone call from her old friend Jack Bush, whom she calls her guardian angel. As a patient navigator for CRC Mendocino, Bush helps patients move through scheduling treatments and rides to and from the hospital, receive the care they need at home, and ensures patients get the attention, care and understanding they deserve during such a trying time. And thus the process began as Romero Beiber became CRC Mendocino’s newest client.
She tried to keep the food truck open, but what doctors thought would be a few weeks of treatment resulted in five months of surgeries, followed by infections and radiation treatment. And despite her best efforts to keep her food truck dream alive, the Retro Wagon closed in May. An Instagram feed full of burgers and egg sandwiches turned into cancer updates.
One constant during the cancer treatment and recovery process was CRC Mendocino.
From her diagnosis to her final day of radiation, CRC was with Romero Beiber. Team members at the nonprofit accompanied her to all her appointments and took notes during the appointments, asked important questions Romero Beiber overlooked, and provided transcripts after every appointment. CRC Mendocino provided gas gift cards to help her with the daily visits to Ukiah for treatment and grocery gift cards during a time in which she had a limited income due to the closure of the food truck.
CRC Mendocino also provided her the comfort, assurance and kindness that she needed. “In total I had two surgeries in Ukiah, fought a nasty infection, and had twenty rounds of radiation,” she shares. “You’re not in your right mind when you’re going through this, and it’s very overwhelming. CRC Mendocino was invaluable.”
In September, Romero Beiber completed her last radiation treatment. “It’s been a long hard road these last five months,” she wrote in a post, “but I’m ready to get back to my life.” On October 2, the Retro Wagon Instagram was once again full of breakfast burritos and double-decker cheeseburgers.
After the emotional rollercoaster known as breast cancer and an equally emotional reopening of the Retro Wagon at Ananse Village, buzzing with dedicated customers whom she hadn’t seen in months, Romero Beiber was ready to give back.
During her treatment, Romero Beiber committed to hosting a fundraiser to give back to the organization that guided her through every step of cancer treatment and recovery. Upon reopening, she launched a raffle for a ARRMA Typhon, a one-eighth scale remote control speed buggy, and accepted cash donations for CRC from customers. On December 14, she held Burgers for Boobs, a fundraiser in which a portion of all burger sales would be donated to CRC Mendocino.
Between the raffle, fundraiser and cash donations, the Retro Wagon raised $1,200 for CRC Mendocino. “It was more than I could have asked for,” she says, “We had an incredible turnout.” She requested that the funds raised be directed specifically to breast cancer patients.
“Having a client initiate a fundraiser for Cancer Resource Centers of Mendocino County is incredibly meaningful, reflecting both the generosity of our community and the resilience of those we support,” says Anya Jindrich, executive director of CRC Mendocino. “It’s heartwarming for our staff, signifying the impact of our joint efforts.” As for the impact the donation will have on CRC Mendocino’s work with breast cancer patients, Jindrich says, “it translates into tangible aid—easing financial burdens and offering hope throughout their journey.”
And while the cheeseburger, mushroom swiss and BBQ bacon burgers were the most popular orders during Burgers for Boobs, the most popular sentiment is gratitude. “I am forever grateful to the CRC for being an invaluable resource during my diagnosis and treatment,” says Romero Beiber. “Giving back is just a small way to show them my appreciation.”
The Retro Wagon is open Mon-Fri 7 a.m.-2 p.m. at Ananse Village, 17800 N. Hwy 1., Fort Bragg. Subject to closure during inclement weather and select holidays. Follow the Retro Wagon on Instagram for updates.
Learn more about the Cancer Resource Centers of Mendocino County here.
Note: Sarah Stierch covers food, beverage, culture, weather and breaking news for The Mendocino Voice. Contact Stierch at [email protected]. The Voice maintains editorial control.