For me, cancer had a funny way of being the ultimate wake-up call. It’s been like a gift and a nightmare, all wrapped in one pretty little shiny box. The gift taught me to live in the moment, to always be present and never miss the birds flying outside my window on a bright blue-sky day, or the ladybug crawling on my arm bringing me protection and good luck. It made me realize I needed to start SherryStrong.org.
The gift of cancer also taught me to never take for granted my life or my health — or anyone else’s in my life. It taught me that I could use my voice and this platform to help other women battling this horrible disease.
The gift of cancer taught me to not wait one single moment…to make that memory I’ve put off for the past year with a loved one. (Road trip anyone?!) It taught me that loving who I am, even with all my faults, is so important. We have this one life to live, God gives us this one body to nourish and care for, so why not do it right and put ourselves first?!
Life is so precious. I promised myself when I got sick, I’d wake up everyday grateful & would make a memory with someone I love! Go Do it ??
— Sherry Pollex (@SherryPollex) April 1, 2016
But most importantly, the gift of cancer taught me to CHOOSE JOY!!! Every day I wake up, I choose joy in my life. I celebrate the small blessings. Our attitude is a huge part of who we are and how we live our lives every day!
I decided right away (ok, well, after I had a few fits about feeling sorry for myself) that I wasn’t going to let cancer take anything else away from me. Cancer could take away my right to bear children, my body parts, my hair, eyebrows, eyelashes and so much more, but it wasn’t going to take away my grateful attitude! My choice of waking up everyday and making the best of the situation I was in. I encourage you to do the same.
So, I’m glad you’re here, because we have lots to talk about!
SherryStrong.org exists to empower women to know their bodies, recognize the symptoms of ovarian cancer and learn how integrative practices may complement conventional medicine.
I’ve spent almost two years thinking about all the things I’d like to change about cancer:
- How I would love to change our healthcare system
- How I want to educate women about the choices they have for their bodies
- How I want to educate women about integrative medicine and care
- How I want to educate and teach women about food being medicine, acupuncture, exercise, massage therapy, supplements, rebounders, infrared saunas and so many more things we can do to improve our well-being!
Ovarian cancer is stealing women’s lives and while I am here to try to change that, in the meantime, I refuse to let ovarian cancer steal our peace, our dignity or our feelings of control. My goal with this website is to bring those elements back into our lives. Your life. The lives of your loved ones touched by ovarian cancer.
But we’re also going to work hard, because not enough people (women and men) know the symptoms of ovarian cancer.
- Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
- Pelvic or abdominal pain
- Urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency)
There’s an acronym to remember the most prevalent symptoms: BEAT.
- B for bloating that is persistent and doesn’t come and go
- E for eating less and feeling fuller
- A for abdominal pain
- T for telling your doctor
What else are we going to talk about here?
We’re going to talk about the hard stuff. The treatments. The emotional havoc. We’re going to be real about the friendships we gained and those we saw fade from our lives. We’re going to talk about — gasp! — intimacy. We’re going to talk wigs and eyelashes and eyebrows and all those little things that feel so big when they’re taken from us as women. (Have you read my post, “Can we have a moment of silence for our hair, please?”)
READ MORE: Here’s why I practice gratitude!
We’re also going to get spiritual. I don’t mean religion; I mean your inner voice. I’ve discovered so many new ways to strengthen myself from the inside out, and I want to help others do the same. (Check out my posts on meditation and yoga!)
Let me tell you a little about myself.
I’ve always been passionate and sassy… I’m that girl who tries to pack 25 things into her day but she really only has time to do 15 of them. I’ve never been able to sit still; I like to move and get things done.
When I met Martin, my life became complete. He’s the calm one in our relationship, while I’m the frantic, crazy stressed worry-wart all the time! Not my best qualities! I was a woman with a mission: to make the most out of life, with him by my side. We were happy and healthy – isn’t that all anyone wants?
That’s the thing about life. We may be able to control the speed at which we hurtle around the corners, but we can’t necessarily control what’s waiting for us on the other side.
At 35, I heard the words “ovarian cancer,” and my life changed forever.
Some people fall apart with that kind of diagnosis, and believe me, I’ve had my moments. But just like Martin finds his zone when he’s on the racetrack, I’ve always been able to find my zone when faced with a challenge. I brushed aside the tears and started crafting a plan with my doctors. I knew I was willing to do and try anything to beat this disease, or at least live a long fulfilling life with it.
I had a seven-hour debulking surgery five days after I was diagnosed. I went through 17 months of chemotherapy. I lost my tastebuds, my appetite, my healthy weight and my hair. I also lost my feelings of immortality. Cancer is the ultimate humbler. You wake up everyday staring death right in the face. If that doesn’t scare you, I don’t know what will!
For all that I lost physically, I gained a lot emotionally in a really small amount of time. What’s it like to hear the words “ovarian cancer?” I know this: no two women will follow the exact same path, but we will experience so many of the same bumps! I promise!
READ MORE: Teal Diva founder Shannon Routh is amazing — you have to read about her here!
My path bounced me from one doctor to another as they tried to accurately diagnose my symptoms – the biggest of which was severe abdominal pain. I had been going to my OB/GYN for four months telling him how much pain I was in, only to have him tell me I had “normal” ovarian cysts that would eventually go away on their own.
By the time we found out I had stage 3C ovarian cancer, my family and friends were devastated. I learned a lot about who would be there in the long run to support me — and it helped me write this post about tips for partners of women fighting cancer.
So, back to the diagnosis. I’ve always been a very game-on person, and I just wanted to know what came next! What did I need to do to tackle cancer? To beat it? I shed tears plenty of times and had a lot of great friends and family here to comfort and support me. My mom, sister (read about Jill here!) and brother-in-law never left my side. When Martin was traveling, they were here. I never had one moment where I felt alone! I felt so loved. Trust me, I know how lucky I am.
I also felt a consistent determination to keep moving forward.
We all have different levels of support and different circumstances. But isn’t there one common denominator? We want to live. We want to beat cancer! If you’re like me, we want to do what we can to make sure cancer never attacks another woman again.
That’s why I’m here, launching SherryStrong.org. I learned so, so much about the power of nutrition and integrative practices like acupuncture, which saved me from horrible neuropathy. (Read about my experience with acupuncture here!) I’ve connected with so many women who come from all different backgrounds and are moving forward with treatment and life in different but similar ways.
You got a diagnosis. You got treatment. You survived. Now you’re trying to live normally again. Or maybe you just got your diagnosis and you’re wondering, what does the road ahead look like? Every path will look different, but every path will have so many similar landmarks. Waves of despair. Fits of rage. Moments of self-pity, self-loathing and just deep, deep sadness.
Yes. I’ve been there, too.
Also? Moments of hilarity! My mom and I had one of the most body-shaking laughing fits one morning as she drove me to chemo in the pouring rain and nearly got us both killed on the slippery roads. I mean, I really didn’t want to go to chemo that day but c’mon! Chemo beats car crashes (almost) every day!
The truth is, my “new normal” is so much more in tune with my body and, crazily, I feel healthier than ever before.
Even scarier than being diagnosed has been finishing treatment, though. Suddenly, people called me “cancer free.” But that’s not the truth yet, is it? I mean, I’ve stopped the treatments that are supposed to get me to that “cancer free” state, but did it work? How long will it stay away?!
READ MORE: I wrote a letter to every doctor and oncologist, based on my experience!
There are days when I’m terrified. I feel like for the past 17 months this drug has been keeping my cancer away, and then I rang the bell signaling the end of treatment, the nurses walked me out of the hospital and I found myself standing on a cliff staring down at the abyss. I eventually had to learn to step off that cliff and hope the treatments worked.
You have to learn to trust in your doctors, and research every possible avenue to keep this horrible beast away. And what’s right for one woman may not be right for another! We are all different human beings, which means each one of our cancers is different. That’s what makes this disease so hard to treat: there’s no “one size fits all” treatment that works for everybody.
I can’t be the only one that feels this way. That’s why I want as many women and their loved ones on this path with me. (And here’s a cool list of ways you can help a friend or loved one with cancer!) The hashtag #SherryStrong kept me going more times than I can count, and now I hope those words will inspire you or your loved one, too. The messages of hope I received on Facebook and Twitter from people all over the country, encouraged me everyday. Now I hope I can do that for others, too!
So, let’s jump together. We’ve got work to do. The first thing you can do is memorize the BEAT symptoms and share them with every single woman you know. That step alone can lead to early detection and successful, life-saving treatment. But then stick with me and learn about how we need to advocate, as women. (Have you ever heard of oral chemo parity?)
Are you in? I am.
SherryStrong.org is a proud part of the Martin Truex Jr. Foundation, dedicated to raising awareness of and funding for childhood and ovarian cancers.
Thank you and Martin for sharing your story.. It is so important that people do not feel alone. The two of you are an inspiration. I was diagnosed with spindle cell carcinoma and leiomyosarcoma in 2007. I had had Systemic Lupus for several decades and been treated with chemo for that. I found my lump because of a car accident when I went for chiropractic treatment. I was lucky. I couldn’t have radiation because I had to much chemo for the lupus and I couldn’t have chemo for the cancer because I had had to much for the lupus. I was again lucky because thanks to a fabulous surgeon at Stanford after several surgeries they were able to cut it all out and now I am ten years cancer free in October. I know what strength it takes to deal with these things and you have it in spades. I have seen it said here before but the best thing one can do for themselves is stay positive, work to take care of yourself and surround yourself with people who are positive and supportive. Thank you both for being a shining example of what there should be more of in the world and giving back. There is so much negativity in the news lately and even though what you are going through is so difficult you are still finding a way to reach out and share with others in a beautiful way. My well wishes to you and yours.
Hi Sherry. I’ve been following your story via NASCAR and just found your site today, so glad I did. My name is Sandy and I am a two timer with Cervical Cancer, and, a one timer with Bladder Cancer. I’ve been where you’ve been, I’ve experienced a lot of the same things you have been through, and, I am here to let you know there IS a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s been 10 years since my last treatments, guess that makes me a true survivor. But, the stuff they put you through, the stuff they throw at you after the diagnosis, is mind blowing. You are pulled in every direction, most days you don’t even know what day it is, but, somehow, someway, you get through it. You have Martin, I have David. If it wasn’t for him, I’m sure I wouldn’t have the drive to fight as much as I did. God gave me a reason to fight in the form of him. We both started the wildest rollercoaster ride of our lives. So many ups, and, a whole lot of downs, but, we made it. It was a wild ride for sure, some tears, but, most of all, we laughed. We laughed every second we could, from David shaving my head, which took a good hour or so, shaving wild designs, and, taking lots of pics. Anyway, I just wanted to say, I’m in your corner, I’ll be watching your progress, and, I will have you in our prayers. By the way, a big thanks to NASCAR for sharing your story. We will be at Talladega in Oct. cheering you and my favorite driver, Martin.
First of all – BLESS YOU! Bless you for what you’re doing to spread the word about this PIA disease! As women, it seems we’re always doing for everyone else and rushing around like maniacs and we’re always the last person we take care of. Ladies! Listen to your bodies and if something isn’t right – – have it checked out ASAP!
And the reason why I say this is that I lost my best friend – – my sister-in-heart almost 5 years ago and I’m still MAD at her. MAD because she wouldn’t go to her GYN for a simple annual check up and hadn’t since her youngest child was born – – and she was 37 when her mother died! MAD because she knew something was wrong and for over a year DID NOTHING about it. She was hoping it “would go away.” SHE HAD ALL OF THE SYMPTOMS yet did nothing. I’m MAD because 3 of her 5 grandchildren will never know her and those that did were so young they don’t remember her. I’m MAD because she was a kind, generous, loving person and the world definately needs more of them! I’m MAD because she lost out on years of happiness and so much more. As I write this, I’m MAD because her death could have been prevented had she only listened to her body and went to her doctor.
Please, please, please listen to your body and if something doesn’t feel right, go to the doctor and get yourself checked out. Do it for your family and friends and save them the heartache of wondering, “shoulda, woulda, coulda,” and thinking you would still be here if only . . . . .
You and Martin are such an inspiration! As I was sitting here tonight watching the two of you celebrate Martin’s championship, I remember how I felt when I was diagnosed 9 1/2 years ago with stage 1C ovarian cancer. I was terrified but I was also determined to beat it! I was 4 months away from my wedding and 4 days past losing my job. I had no insurance, no job, and no idea what was going to happen to me. I had all the same feelings and crying fits, especially when my hair started falling out after my second chemo treatment. I too, had a wonderful partner and soon to be husband who held me, cried with me, and told me that I was going to be fine. My mom also was there for all of my treatments, for my total hysterectomy, and my tears when my hair started to fall out. Through it all I kept a positive attitude though and I believe that’s what got me through. i was lucky in that I only had 3 rounds of chemotherapy, I never got sick, and I am cancer free since 2008.
Thank you for all you do and for inspiring so many! Your story really hit home for me and I wanted to say Stay Strong! You will beat this.
I was so impressed tonight with what you said about how to stay strong no matter what you are going thru my husband n i worked the same job for 34 yrs n because of our health n age was replaced by a younger couple as a result we lost our home n everything we had worked for our entire life n ended up homeless living in a motel trying to survive on just our SS checks which barely pays the rent and my husband has congestive heart failure but we are greatful we have this room we are trying to get into a place we can afford but we cant save anything to get out because we pay everything to stay here but we never give up hope your such an insperation to us and so many thank you
Thank you for everything you and Martin do. I love your story it was very inspiring. I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer 2 years ago have been through many surgeries, chemo and meds. It is very hard and to have your family and friend support is the best medicine. I worked through all of my treatments and surgery. You and Martin really keep me going, I am a Nascar Fan and just to see you by his side or when he would say your were home not feeling well. Every week I would watch so I could see you by his side and that made me fight too. Thank you
I too was diagnosed with stage 3c ovarian cancer after going to the doctor every month for 6 months. The call came almost before I got home from the MRI. I saw the doctors number in the caller Id and I knew SOMETHING was up. The doctor herself was on the phone and said “you have ovarian cancer.” I simply said OK, what do we do next?” A complete hysterectomy and debulking surgery follow 2 weeks later followed by 5 months of chemo therapy. I never once cried or wrung my hands or asked God, “why me.” All my life I have accepted things as they come and dealt with it. Once the treatments were over I was put on a 3 month follow-up and the waiting began. The diagnosis came out of nowhere and was unexpected. But KNOWING that the cancer will return and not knowing when, is the worst part. Ovarian cancer ALWAYS returns. At least in the late stages.
I too, have received so many gifts and blessings from having this awful disease. My perspective about everything in life has changed. Last fall I looked up and saw leaves falling from a tree and it was the most beautiful sight. I love more and I love LOUDER. I now have permission to put me first, when appropriate and doing things I could/would not do before. I appreciate people more and take nothing for granted. I am HAPPY! I am JOYFUL! I only wish I could have been this happy earlier in life.
Loved reading your story,