It is absolutely impossible to speak with Sherry Pollex for more than two minutes and not start feeling something strong and distinct develop in your own heart and mind. She is positive, motivated, and optimistic. And she makes you feel the same way.
It’s an amazing demeanor for someone so bravely battling stage III ovarian cancer. In fact, Pollex, 37, has recently begun her second trip through intense chemotherapy treatment after doctors located a Ping Pong ball-sized recurrence of cancer in her spleen this summer. Surgeons removed her spleen and she was still recovering in the hospital when her longtime boyfriend Martin Truex Jr. won the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup race July 8 at Kentucky Speedway.
She was trackside this past week, however, when Truex, 37, and the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing team kicked off the playoffs with a huge victory at Chicago — his series best fifth of the season and a perfect exclamation point for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.
It seems like the ultimate in “win-win” situations!
“To be able to experience what he’s going through on and off the track has been huge for both of us,” Pollex told NASCAR.com. “I think the race track is a good place to go to kind of forget about all your troubles. You go there, perform well and it makes everything better. It makes him happy, and I love seeing him happy. It’s been an amazing year.”
The ability and opportunity to appreciate Truex’s success in NASCAR has actually been a sort of panacea for Pollex. And for Truex.
Truex, the Regular Season Champion, is guaranteed a spot in the second round of the NASCAR Playoffs with Sunday’s win. He’s collected more race trophies, more playoff points than any other driver this year. And, he’s done it with good vibes even against emotional odds.
You think Truex is strong behind the steering wheel of his Toyota? Imagine what he’s like out of the driver’s seat being a source of strength, compassion and can-do for Pollex.
“I think about that a lot,” Pollex said. “He’s not a super emotional person and doesn’t talk a lot about his feelings and I worry about him dealing with everything that I’m going through — I know he worries about my disease and me possibly not being there for him one day.
“I can’t imagine the pressure in everything he’s had to deal with and he just handles it with such class. His character speaks for itself. Most people in the garage have a lot of respect for him. He’s a good person and he has a big heart and he’s always been there for me. He’s my rock and he’s never wavered once through everything we’ve been through.”
On her website, Sherrystrong.org, Pollex has candidly written about her recent medical situation. Opening up helps her. And she hopes, helps others.
As word of her current situation has gotten out, Pollex said she’s been surprised at the number of people who have reached out to cheer her on — at the grocery store or gas pumps even, people stop her to wish her well.
“The passion the fans have in NASCAR, there’s really no other sport like it,” Pollex said. “I wonder sometimes, why do they feel so connected? I think some really feel like they are going through a battle with me. So many people around the world are touched by cancer and any time you can relate to someone going through something that tough, you feel a connection to them. You can’t explain to people what it is to meet people who are going through what you are going through. It’s real.
“For me, I’ve been very open with what I’m going through and I want to help other women and people in general who are battling cancer. I kinda feel like that’s the path God has put me on. Everyone is dealing with a struggle or something going on in their life. No one’s life is perfect. I just put it all out there and hope it inspires or helps someone.”
Judging by the response she receives and the feel-good Truex produces, it’s safe to say Pollex’s message of positivity through adversity has gotten out.
And now each weekend, Pollex can take great satisfaction in watching Truex find such success. He’s put in 12 years in NASCAR’s big time and four years ago took a leap of faith to join the small Furniture Row Racing team based 1,000 miles from NASCAR’s Charlotte hub, a small organization that fought to be considered a legitimate title contender compared to the “mega-organizations” it competed against.
And now, Truex and team are making a great, even emotional, run for his first Monster Energy Series title and the Furniture Row Racing team’s first championship too.
“I feel like it’s God rewarding him with this success for him being such an amazing person,” Pollex said. “Everything you’ve worked your whole life for is finally coming to fruition. You’re with a manufacturer that’s good, you and your crew chief are good — him and Cole (Pearn) are such a good combination — and that team. It’s the closest-knit group of guys I’ve ever been around. They have told me so many times that, ‘There’s no other guy in that garage we would want behind the wheel of that race car than him.’
“And,” she continued, her voice full of passion and admiration, “How he handles things in the car and when things don’t go his way. Martin and I talk about things, how his personality is so different than from before I got diagnosed.
“The old Martin would have gotten mad when they had a bad pit stop or run bad. But he’s not like that anymore and I think that’s what he means when he says, ‘With everything Sherry and I have been through … it’s made me a better person and a better driver.’
“You can take all that adversity and turn it into something positive and that’s exactly what he’s done. That’s hard to do.”
And she should know.