Tribute To Sherry Swanstrom
Sherry and Randy Swanstrom
Sherry K. Swanstrom lost her battle to mesothelioma on January 27, 2008
at the age of 51. I met Sherry eleven years ago as my new boss, and I
remember everyone thinking we were in for trouble because before she transferred
over she was the manager for loss prevention at Sears. She would turn
out to be the only boss I've ever had whose first and foremost care
was the people who worked for her.
Sherry always made sure we had everything we needed. She really cared about
everyone, not just how we did our jobs but also about our personal lives.
She made an unforgettable difference by caring enough to just listen as
I was going through the toughest time of my life.
It's amazing what you think are "tough times" when you see
what other people have to endure. Due to company downsizing they closed
our unit. On the last day of work Sherry found out she had terminal cancer.
I remember telling her I thought it was sad enough that she was losing
her job, and on top of that she had this awful cancer. She told me that
it wasn't all that tough. She just had to deal with the cancer; it
was the rest of her family that would need help. That's the kind of
caring person she was.
I later found out they had given her just six months to live.
All this happening to a lady who had just found out that both of her daughters
were expecting, and she would be a grandmother in a short nine months.
Up until that point Sherry and I weren't friends outside of work,
but at most company functions my wife and I would sit with her and her
husband Randy, and my wife would always say, "We should get together
with those guys."
For everything Sherry had done for me, I wanted to be the best friend I
could for her during her difficult time. We would eventually get together
with Sherry and Randy for many "dinner and a movie" evenings
over the next twenty-seven months. Sherry apparently hadn't gotten
the memo about only having six months to live.
I never heard Sherry complain about what life had dealt her. Words will
never do justice to the respect and admiration I have for how she fought
her battle against mesothelioma. She fought it with courage, dignity,
and grace. How many of us can say we did that for a single day when we
reflect on our thoughts and actions, much less for close to three years
with a terrible disease?
For almost a year she endured treatments that included a trial with Onconase,
radiation, and finally Alimta. After going through these brutal treatments
she was able to have almost an entire year treatment-free and enjoy time
with family and friends.
I am grateful that we got to know Sherry and Randy and her family, but
in truth it makes the pain of losing such a good person all that much
worse. She is an inspiration to anyone diagnosed with mesothelioma, or
any disease, or even just facing the obstacles that life throws in your
way that seem like you just can't ever surmount. She showed that by
fighting it and doing everything you can there are still great and wonderful
times ahead. Sherry showed that laughter and joy and love and friendship
aren't things that only happen to happy people, but that they're
treasures you can attain even in the darkest times if you're of a
noble heart, a generous spirit, and brave enough to face hardship with hope.
At Sherry's funeral I found out that what endeared me most about her
was a common compliment given to her by many people, the willingness to
listen and yet never judge. Sherry touched our lives and will be sorely
missed by her family and friends, a pain made worse because it was caused
by companies that knew the dangers of asbestos and who could have prevented
this horrible loss. We miss her very much but are grateful she is no longer
suffering. I will always remember her as a very special friend
She did get to see her grandsons born and see their first birthdays, too.
*** POSTED MARCH 4, 2008 ***