Rena Williams radiates positivity and joy. According to friends, family, and coworkers, this has always been true of Rena, and she wasn’t about to let a cancer diagnosis change that. Instead, Rena chose to dance her way through her chemotherapy sessions, getting a big surprise after her final day.
Back in August of 2020, Rena went to her doctor to have a lump in her breast checked out. A few days later, while playing with her dog, Mable, in the backyard, she received the call that she had Triple-Negative Breast Cancer. This type of cancer is extremely aggressive and is typically classified as grade 3, resulting in a limited amount of targeted treatments. Despite the unexpected and scary diagnosis, Rena has maintained her positivity, with a little help from her friends.
“Our community and my family and our coworkers, it’s very overwhelming,” she explained in an interview with Channel3000. “The amount of love and support we have gotten, I never would have expected this outpouring of love and we’re very lucky.” Rena also has the support of her husband, Patrick, whom she met over 11 years ago at their workplace, the Swedish-American Hospital in Rockford.
“It’s a mix of emotions,” Patrick said. “That you care so much about this one person and at first you think of all the ways your life would be worse without her.” Patrick has shown incredible strength in joining Rena in her fight against breast cancer, taking her to her chemo appointments, and being her cameraman whenever she felt like busting a move.
In early October, Rena went to her first chemotherapy session, and spontaneously started dancing her way back to the car once it was over. “I was sitting there and thinking I wanted to leave the chemo and celebrate that I’m done with this,” she said. “It wasn’t planned, like I didn’t have anything choreographed that day. I just started dancing out to the car to Rapper’s Delight. There’s people in their cars watching and I’m thinking, ‘Oh, my gosh.’”
Rena decided to post the first video to her Facebook page, where she received a wave of support and attention. Form there, she knew she had to keep the tradition going. Rena began learning choreographed dances in preparation for her appointments, sometimes dressing in costume, and always displaying her infectious smile.
“I was practicing these dances, which I don’t have a dance background and I goof around at weddings, so this isn’t like a pick it up super quick,” Rena laughed. “I have to practice quite a bit.” Using her spare time, and energy, to learn new dance moves gave Rena a reason to find joy in her chemo appointments. She spread that joy to all of us who watched her videos, and to those waiting in the parking lot due to COVID restrictions for their loved ones to finish treatment.
Recently, Rena had her 16th and final chemotherapy session. She rang the bell and received a certificate for her massive achievement, along with a bottle of champagne and a pin that read, “I DID IT!” “Whatever you’re going through, try to find something that you can be joyful about,” Rena concluded. “Because a positive attitude makes all the difference in a negative situation.”
Though she had prepared one final dance, she was instead surprised by a dancing flash mob! Her friends, family, and coworkers joined the cancer center staff and performed a choreographed dance to Bruno Mars’ Uptown Funk. The incredibly thoughtful and touching moment brought tears to Rena’s eyes as she saw before her the amazing support system she has. That community will continue to rally around Rena as she faces surgery in April, which will be followed by radiation.
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