Sherry Abbott

Executive Director of the Canadian Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association
21 Year Cancer Survivor

TurningPoint: A life changing Cancer diagnosis

imgThe doctor walked into her room and stared at the floor. "You have three months to live and we doubt you'll see the New Year. You have Ovarian Cancer" It was September 1989 and thirty year old Sherry Abbott was plunged into a state of shock and disbelief. She had lost her mother to cancer two years before and now she had to tell her Dad and sister that her prognosis was grim.

"It broke my heart to tell him." But after digesting the news Sherry's Dad said, "Whatever it takes we'll be there for you. We'll beat this thing."

"The doctors told me that there was no survival rate and that I'd be permanently disabled. But I felt my mother's final gift to me was the courage to face the treatments that were ahead. I had to at least try."

Sherry's shock at her cancer diagnosis gave way to a steely resolve as she told the doctors, "How dare you to give up on me when I haven't given up on myself?"

The months that followed were filled with nauseating and aggressive chemo treatments, radiation and numerous surgeries. It took a tremendous toll on her overall health.

"My family was called Christmas Eve and told that I wasn't expected to make it through the night. But I did. On Christmas Day I asked my Sister to do my makeup. I wanted to look good and we took a picture."

On March 2, 1990 Sherry received her last treatment. She had severe nerve damage to her spinal cord and legs and would need a cane and prosthetic devices to walk but she was cancer free.

Sherry went back to work at Revlon. "I wanted to keep on living and be engaged and involved in the outside world. Having worked in the cosmetic industry for so many years I knew the power that cosmetics had to make you look and feel your best. When I was down and out lipstick and blush made me feel feminine." She also remembered the events of Christmas day when she had defeated death and had celebrated by getting her makeup done.

As a Board member of the Canadian Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association Sherry worked to establish the CCTFA Foundation to support women with cancer. Look Good Feel Better was born and now two decades later, Sherry Abbott is the Executive Director.

"I feel like I have been given my calling," Abbott says, "When you can lift someone's spirits and nurture their spirit it does so much for women. That's why we do the workshops. Today more than 100,000 women have taken part in the Look Good Feel Better program."

The bottom line is simple. Abbot says, "We are simply not meant to face Cancer alone".

Abbott and the CCTFA recently commissioned a report and talked to 814 women who were facing cancer. What they found was staggering. Although their medical needs were being met, women felt there were no services in place to help them deal with the social and emotional effects of the disease. "The heart and souls of women with cancer also need care and attention," says Abbott.

On the heels of the landmark report, The CCTFA Foundation has launched a new initiative called "Facing Cancer Together". Their new interactive website, sponsored by Shoppers Drug Mart, is the largest online show of support for women with Cancer. Women can now share, connect and find resources to help them during their recovery at www.facingcancer.ca.

We are forced to endure so many turning points in our lives and career but never doubt the resilience of the human spirit. April is Cancer Awareness Month but our efforts to kill this disease must continue all year long. Support cancer research and force a turning point for a cure and prevention for the disease that will claim the lives of one in four Canadians.

Sherry Abbott is living proof that this disease can be beaten. She recently celebrated twenty-one years of living cancer free.