In the 608: Mount Horeb native dancing her way through cancer

Rena Williams

MOUNT HOREB, Wis. – There’s a woman from Wisconsin leaving a lasting impact in the 608 and across the region.

When first meeting Rena Williams, you’d never know what hid behind her smile. That’s been her goal going all the way back to August 2020.

After finding a lump, the 34-year-old got a call while she was playing with her dog, Mable in the back yard. She had been diagnosed with Triple-Negative Breast Cancer. It’s an aggressive form that does not have any of the receptors commonly found in breast cancer, meaning fewer keys to treatment.

“Our community and my family and our coworkers, it’s very overwhelming,” Rena said. “The amount of love and support we have gotten, I never would have expected this outpouring of love and we’re very lucky.”

Rena first met Patrick, her husband, 11-years-ago on the job. Both of them work at the Swedish-American Hospital in Rockford, a division of UW-Health.

“It’s a mix of emotions,” Patrick explained. “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.”

Now living in northern Illinois, they’re the perfect pair in the hospital, but an even better pair outside in the parking lot. In early October, after her first day of chemotherapy, Rena began dancing her way through cancer, with Patrick right by her side running the camera.

“I was sitting there and thinking I wanted to leave the chemo and celebrate that I’m done with this. It wasn’t planned, like I didn’t have anything choreographed that day,” Rena laughed. “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.”

After uploading the first video, it got so much attention Rena knew she had to do it again the next time, dancing to Michael Jackson’s Thriller at Halloween. Sometimes in all out costume, it was a good distraction for the Williams family, but also a positive one for all the other folks forced to wait in the parking lot as their loved ones underwent treatment due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Rather than sitting at home in her thoughts, she began running through routines in her off time.

“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. I have to practice quite a bit,” Rena explained.

The clips became a symbol of her strength, leaving an impact on all sorts of people, from her stepdaughter Vivian, to her parents who still live here in the 608, in Blue Mounds, and everyone in between.

This week, it could have been her most important dance yet, but this time around, she was surprised by a flash mob. Rena had her final day of chemo on Wednesday, which just so happened to be Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Awareness Day. She tells News 3 Now it couldn’t have played out any better.

“Whatever you’re going through, try to find something that you can be joyful about, because a positive attitude makes all the difference in a negative situation,” Rena said.

If you’re thinking Rena’s done dancing, think again.

“Just connecting with people and hearing other people’s stories, it makes me want to continue dancing even after,” Rena laughed.

Rena’s battle with cancer is not over yet. She’s set to have surgery in April and then radiation after that. Doctors say it is a very aggressive form of cancer, but luckily, it hasn’t spread to any other organs that they can see.

Rena also encourages everyone, not just women, to check themselves often and get tested.

If you’d like to check out all of Rena’s chemo dances, click here.