This is the third entry in our “Survivor Stories” series, featuring Board Member Sherri Maple — an inspiration to us all. ~Jan
As Captain for Southwest Airlines, Sherri Maple was used to being in charge. “When it came to cancer, I no longer was,” she shared. However, Sherri’s cancer journey was unique in that there were no misdiagnoses or even let’s-try-this advice. In April of 2015, she’d noted some spotting and called the doctor with a declaration of “I have blood in my urine.” A transvaginal ultrasound was subsequently suggested. The doctor wasn’t particularly concerned but wanted to be on the safe side. Sherri wasn’t particularly alarmed either. She even thought about canceling the appointment since it was scheduled for 7 p.m. the following day. Her husband, Denny, suggested they go out to dinner and then head over for the ultrasound to have it done with. It was basically “by accident” Sherri’s cancer was found.
“I’d never had anything wrong with me,” she explained. “My mother had cancer and that did scare me.” She recalled post-surgery hearing her Mayo nurses mention they’d put in a port and thinking to herself hazily “A port? That means I have cancer.” In a sense, it allowed Sherri to ease into knowing she had the disease.
Cancer is no doubt horrible. It’s sneaky. It stinks. But cancer survivors admit there can be an upside you don’t see until you’re on the other side. Sherri reiterated, “I was the Captain. I was in control. I was used to being self-sufficient. I wasn’t good at receiving. When I opened myself up to receiving, I had so many people offering to help, so much support. It was a good lesson for me.”
She’s been a giving spirit, having participated in Southwest’s Adopt-A-Pilot program. Pilots visit classrooms three to four times a year as a supplementary way to “educate students through aviation-themed activities related to careers, science, geography, math and other subjects.” Understandably, Sherri missed a second session after she was diagnosed with cancer in her fallopian tube. (Ovarian cancer starts in the fallopian tubes, being one and the same cancer, treated exactly same.) Shortly thereafter, she received a package in the mail from her Adopt-A-Pilot kids who heard WHY she couldn’t come back. “There were probably forty-plus cards, letters and pictures. They shared well wishes and sad stories about family members with cancer.” It touched her.
Sherri had “slipped the surly bonds of earth” for 27 years in her tenure with Southwest. She received a retirement send-off fit for aviation royalty, yet flying isn’t her only passion. She offers a sewing clinic in her husband’s hometown in Nebraska called Kids Sew Camp. She teaches “Flight School” for Sky Kids AZ, an organization that builds self-esteem and confidence for special needs kids through flight. Sherri has volunteered in a program called LiveStrong at the YMCA, an exercise program for cancer survivors.
Not only does her altruism (Sherri is additionally a VP on the Teal It Up board) buoy her attitude when it comes to keeping healthy, she relies on a strong faith. “During treatment I prayed every morning with my husband. My cousin would call and we’d pray on the phone.” She said she initially asked God to take away her fear of what the cancer had in store for her. But as time went by she reminded herself that God has the plan. So instead of taking away the cancer, she’d say “Dear God, help me cope and get through this.” God listened … Sherri is cancer-free.