My Life With Breast Cancer

My name is Joella McWilliams and this is my story.

Joella and GaryMy cancer story started in August of 1997 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was a 39-year-old nurse and mother to 4 boys. I had surgery and chemotherapy, and my cancer was in remission for 9 years.

The first recurrence of my cancer, called metastasis, was in 2006 in a lymph node near my clavicle. The cancer returned again in 2009 in my right femur, in 2010 in more lymph nodes, in 2011 in my pleura (the lining of the lungs). In the last 2 years, metastatic breast cancer has been found in my lungs, abdomen, bowel, back, spine, and skin.

My battle against breast cancer over the last 22 years has included 8 different chemotherapies, 8 surgeries, and 4 different radiation treatments. I also tried a holistic approach and an immunotherapy trial. I continue to battle my cancer with chemotherapy.

While breast cancer has been a large part of my life, it has not been my life. I do feel blessed to be a survivor for this long. My biggest blessing is my wonderful and loving family. I am a grandmother to 9, soon to be 10 beautiful grandchildren. My life is full of love and I am so very grateful for each day God lets me stay.

I feel my battle with cancer has made me a stronger person, and even though we have been through many tough times that I wish have not happened, I feel it has made my sons stronger and our bond stronger.

My son Gary recently came to me with an idea. Gary asked me to tell my story and he wants to help women who are battling breast cancer – in his own unique way.

Atlas General Contractors wants to donate a new roof to a survivor who has financial needs. Thank you Gary, I am so proud of you.



Joella Kay “Jody” McWilliams died at her home in Roscoe, IL on May 29th, 2020 surrounded by family after a 23-year battle with cancer. She was 62.

Jody was born on October 17, 1957 in Elgin, Illinois to Donald and Marilyn Fink. She attended Elgin schools before graduating from Kirkland, Hiawatha in 1976. Jody was an avid runner, completing multiple marathons. She also enjoyed horseback riding. She worked as an RN for more than 20 years in Rockford, IL, Janesville, WI, and Beloit, WI.

For most of her life she enjoyed spending summertime at “the lake” with family in Palmyra, WI. Jody loved family above all. She was a dedicated mother and grandmother, and she was close with all eleven of her grandkids, who adored their “Grandma Jody.” She was known for hosting pool parties for the grandkids and family gatherings at her Roscoe home.

Jody is survived by her husband Gary McWilliams of Roscoe, IL and four sons: Bryan McWilliams of Rockford, IL; Gary (Tavia) Paris of Elburn, IL; Cavan (Erin) Spedding of Byron, IL; and Brett (Stefanie) McWilliams of Salt Lake City, UT; her grandchildren: Tristan, Addyson, and Kirsten McWilliams; Guiliana, Gianni, Genevieve, Gemma, and Genessa Paris; Avelynn and Irelynn Spedding; her mother, Marilyn Fink, of Beloit, WI and five siblings: Kim Bascom of Marana, AZ; Melanie Crosby of Marana AZ, Valli Helfvogt of Beloit, WI; Connon Fink of Farmersville, TX; and Chris Fink of Beloit, WI and multiple nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her father, her brother Donald Fink, and her granddaughter Courtney Lindstrom.


Latest Winner: Mary Ormond


2020 Winner

Please fill out the form below to nominate someone you know who is currently battling breast cancer or is a survivor who has come into financial hardships and cannot afford the cost of replacing a roof on their home.

Accepting Applications Starting October 1, 2021. The winner will be selected August 1, 2022.


Nomination for Breast Cancer Roof Giveaway