It’s some kind of cruel irony that a woman who dedicated endless time and energy to fighting childhood cancer should then be diagnosed with, and eventually pass away from, ovarian cancer herself. But that’s exactly what happened to Sherry Pollex, life-long philanthropist and beloved figure in NASCAR.
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Sherry had been on the NASCAR scene long before meeting her former long-term boyfriend, NASCAR driver Martin Truex Jr., in the mid 2000s. She grew up watching NASCAR races with her sister, and her dad, a Late Model dirt track driver, owned a team that competed in what’s now the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
She moved into NASCAR in her own right working in PR, which is when she met Martin. The two launched the Martin Truex Jr. Foundation together in 2007, focused on helping both children fighting cancer and their families. In 2010 Sherry’s efforts launched Catwalk for a Cause, a delightful event that’s exactly what it sounds like (a fashion show for charity) with a twist: NASCAR drivers, their significant others, and pit crew members were among those strutting their stuff down the catwalk!
But sadly, in 2014, Sherry herself was diagnosed with Stage 3 ovarian cancer and rushed into an emergency surgery, later followed by chemotherapy. Though doctors had given her a 30% chance at survival over the next five years, much to the delight of her loved ones and everyone in the NASCAR community she went into remission in 2016.
So Sherry kept right on fighting to help others suffering from cancer, now both children and those with ovarian cancer, a disease she’d come to realize was in dire need of updated treatment protocol.
“I often wonder if that’s my purpose here,” Sherry said. “It’s maybe not what I would have chosen for myself — nobody really wants to be the poster child for any type of cancer — but maybe I’m supposed to go through all this so I can pave the way for other women.”
However, the tenacious disease returned in 2021, and this time the cancer had spread to a lung and was particularly resistant to treatment. So resistant, in fact, that despite relentless chemotherapy, Sherry passed away September 17, 2023. She was only 44 years old.
But in one final instance of irony, this time perhaps not so cruel, the 2023 edition of Catwalk for a Cause hit the runway mere days before Sherry’s death, and the entire NASCAR community praised her in absentia for her selfless philanthropy. So far, Catwalk for a Cause has raised over $4 million to fight cancer.
On a personal note, I, the author of this article, grew up watching NASCAR every weekend. I remember admiring both Sherry and Martin’s dedication to helping children and their families long before her cancer diagnosis.
Like any other NASCAR fan from 2014 on, I rooted for both my favorite drivers on the track and for Sherry as she battled cancer. I remember seeing her on my TV screen when she joined Martin at the track, clearly worn out but still so full of life and kindness. When she went into remission I rejoiced, and when the cancer returned I was heartbroken. And now, though I never had the privilege of meeting this radiant force of a woman myself, I can’t help but tear up at the thought of her passing.
Rest easy, Sherry. And thank you for the legacy of hope and healing you left the world.
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