SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - A year ago, Shelli Briery Murphy took the stage as a celebrity dancer at the annual Dancing for the Cure with a heavy heart.
Now — her heart is at peace.
“The last week of my mother-in-law’s life, it was a struggle and she fought for every breath she took. Our prayer was that she didn’t suffer,” shares Shelli, revealing how her mother-in-law, Sunny Russell, finally succumb to metastatic breast cancer three weeks ago.
Shelli is a former local television news anchor and now works in public relations at Horseshoe and Harrahs casinos.
She’ll return to the stage Friday night inside the Horseshoe Riverdome as a special guest performer. She was one of three celebrity dancers to receive perfect scores from the judges, before KSLA News 12′s Adria Goins was eventually awarded the grand prize: the pink-mirrored ball.
“A long time ago I mentioned to the people running Dancing for the Cure, I’d love to dance in it some day. That would be so much fun,” Shelli said.
That was in the spring of 2015.
But months later came the news that stunned Shelli and her entire family: terminal cancer.
“It’s either a miracle, or a quality of life you’re going to enjoy while your days are numbered,” Shelli said.
Metastatic breast cancer takes root in your bones and dictates the end of your life story before all the chapters are even written.
“It was a double punch for me,” she said. “My dad died of pancreatic cancer in September of 2014.”
And her maternal grandmother, at the young age of 42, was lost to the very same metastatic breast cancer that Sunny faced.
“When you friend struggles, you do, too. You take that on,” explains Andrea Butler, the director of marketing for Horseshoe and Harrah’s.
When Shelli announced she would dance in 2018, Andrea and many of Shelli's other coworkers quickly rallied to show their support.
Together, they raised over $20,000 for Susan G. Komen.
“We raised that money with jeans day and by wearing t-shirts,” Andrea said, explaining how employees payed money for casual dress days at work.
Then on the night of the big event, Shelli — who danced to an Elvis song — didn’t disappoint.
"I was three when 'Shelvis' entered the building, cheering her on. I couldn't be more proud," a smiling Andrea exclaimed.
Shelli earned a perfect score from the judges, while delivering the perfect night for her mother-in-law.
“She was so excited,” Shelli said. “To see that smile on her face was everything.”
Shelli now returns to the stage, more peaceful at heart, despite the recent passing of Sunny on March 30, 2019.
“Three weeks ago, she won this battle. I feel relieved right now,” Shelli said. "Her victory wasn’t in flesh with us. Her victory is in heaven.
Dancing for the Cure is Friday, April 26 at 7 p.m. inside the Horseshoe Riverdome. Tickets are available at komenlouisiana.org.