- Associated Press - Sunday, February 9, 2014

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - Though battling a serious disease, Sherry Shepley works every day to make life better for others.

Shepley has nevoid melanoma, a rare, fast-spreading type of cancer. The disease has a 98 percent fatality rate within five years, is impervious to chemo and radiation therapies and can only be treated by surgical removal.

Adding insult to injury, the diagnosis last summer came only four years after Shepley had battled kidney cancer.

But even with her grim prognosis, Shepley has chosen to channel her attention into her cleaning service, “Polished to Perfection,” in order to reach out to others who are suffering from life-threatening illnesses.

Shepley’s business recently became a partner service of Cleaning for a Reason, a Texas-based non-profit that offers four months of free cleaning to women diagnosed with cancer.

And though Cleaning for a Reason is geared exclusively toward women, Shepley obtained a special concession from the organization that her services could be offered to any man, woman or child with a life-threatening illness.

“As someone who has cancer, who am I to look you in the face if you have Alzheimer’s and tell you that I have it worse than you do because you are a man with Alzheimer’s versus a woman with cancer?” she said.

Recently, Shepley has already seen 26 new clients through Cleaning for a Reason, in addition to her 66 regular homes.

A few weeks ago, she started cleaning the home of Dick Runge in Fort Pierre, who has terminal bacterial infections. Doug Runge, Dick’s son, said a service like Shepley’s is great for full-time caregivers like himself who can’t do things such as run the vacuum cleaner because his father sleeps a good portion of the day, he said.

More than that, at the end of the day when he goes home to his own family, he has one fewer thing to worry about, Runge said.

“I’m not going to have to vacuum the house tomorrow,” he said.

Even with her own long-odds battle with cancer, Shepley said helping people like Runge is the vision she has always had for business and she will not be slowing down anytime soon.

Shepley said cleaning has always been a form of therapy for her. She has two sons in the military and cleaning became a way to redirect her thoughts so as not to dwell on them being in harm’s way. Now it’s also providing comfort as she gears up for her second fight with cancer.

“Honestly this is my therapy, because I can go into these peoples’ homes and I can see people in better condition than I’m in and get strength from that. And I can see people in worse condition than I’m in and draw strength from that,” she said.

The important thing is to provide the type of service that she would like to receive herself because of her illness, Shepley said. That includes servicing some homes for free or taking payment in trade. There are several customers who pay her in caramel rolls and other baked goods.

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