bring food so she could focus on her surgery and recovery.
“We felt really strongly about helping her,” Tapella explains. “I admire her so much because she is still working and still making sales and building her team. She has a lot of fortitude.”
“They were a godsend,” says Williams of her colleagues. “They are my Mary Kay angels.”
Williams was diagnosed for the third time in February of 2002. “I found a lump on my left side,” she says. “My plastic surgeon thought it was scar tissue. They did a biopsy and they didn’t think it was malignant. When they found out it was and in stage one, my surgeon was more upset then I was. I had a lumpectomy again.”
One of her biggest challenges is getting women, especially educated, middle- and upper-class black women, to understand that it is better to know than not to know. Williams also says that many women have misconceptions about cancer and how you can get it, noting that, before she got sick, she felt that she did not fit the typical profile of a woman at high risk of developing breast cancer. Williams played team tennis, was learning golf, and had become an avid cyclist. She even participated in Black Enterprise’s annual golf and tennis tournament. “I have never smoked, don’t drink, and have never done drugs.”
Williams’ mother was diagnosed last summer with breast cancer at 62. Her maternal aunt was diagnosed at 64 later that fall, and her daughter (Williams’ first cousin) was diagnosed in January 2002. “I went from no family history of breast cancer to major family history,” she says.
Williams says that her business survived because of its mobility. “As long as I have a phone, access to mail, and the Internet, I can do business from home.” She also credits the fact that many of her customers are regular buyers. She says, “Two of my questions to entrepreneurs and business owners is: Are you prepared financially and mentally? Do you have the right insurance? One of the issues you must face as an entrepreneur is what will you do or what will become of your business if you get sick.”
Joyce Z. Grady, independent national sales director for Mary Kay in Davidsonville, Maryland, says, “Sherry has shown us encouragement by continuing to do all of this while fighting the disease. She is determined to make things happen in her life and by her having that determination, she wipes out all of the excuses for anyone to not be able to run their business.”
Williams is currently writing a book to help women, and black women specifically, to understand more about breast cancer. “I am thankful that I have a disease that, if detected early, has a cure,” she asserts. “I am grateful to be alive and strong enough to fight it again and again. God is here as my partner and He has given me the strength to fight this off.”
Join the Fight
The fact that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month should