Survivor Story

Cheryl Leone: Finding the Joy

Every single day Cheryl Leone defies the odds. Science says she should not be here. Statistics say she should have left us 16-17 years ago. A decade and a half later, she is still here – still living with joy, still inspiring.

Cheryl was diagnosed with stage IV vulvar cancer in 2005. She was given 2 months to a year to live. At the end of the year, she wasn’t just alive – she was thriving.

Fast forward – it’s 2020 and to add another ripple to the COVID crisis, Cheryl had been diagnosed with colon cancer in June 2019. Cheryl responded with the same positive attitude she credits for getting her through round one with cancer.

Her family developed the “Team Cheryl Approach” – an all-in response that created a pod of safe support around Cheryl.

Cheryl watched as her two grown children stepped up and made significant sacrifices to be there in every way imaginable for their mom. Perhaps the grandest gift was the opportunity to realize her greatest delight – her two children are amazing humans.

cheryl leone

Cheryl is truly thankful for her family and worries more about her caregivers than herself.

Her daughter saw a need for Cheryl to downsize, something Cheryl “would do in a second, if I didn’t have to move” and three days later her daughter had sold the house and purchased a smaller, more accessible home—and made the move. Her son changed her ileostomy bag every day for 9 months. Cheryl’s granddaughter (pictured) became a daily infusion of joy. Her partner, Dave, a constant reminder that she is loved.

The story is incredible, but Cheryl is more incredible. She is a motivator, someone who challenges each of us to be better, to do better, just because of her example.

In talking with Cheryl, one gets that sense that the “Cheryl-isms,” much like “Yow-isms” are not just words, they are blueprints for good living. A favorite is, “You have to live with joy, not happiness.”

Joy. It is a word that is not often connected to cancer, yet there they are – the fingerprints of joy, evidence of a life lived in a battle Cheryl long since won.

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