The events of the past several months have led to uncertainty, adversity and obstacles from which many of us continue to push through. For these female executives, their resolute and inspiring ability to help their businesses forge ahead is — in part — thanks to the perspective they have from other, very different, hurdles in their lives.

Dani Huval, business development director, CHASSE Building Team

While in college studying marine biology, Huval became a single mother. The great joy of her life, but a gift not conducive to spending countless hours on a boat. Huval changed her major and worked toward a new future.

Upon graduation, she moved to Arizona and began her career, eventually getting married and founding a business with her husband, Tim Huval.

She would lose Tim in 2015 to cancer, but Dani persevered, becoming a leader in business and development for CHASSE Building Team, helping expand the award-winning general contractor to over $250 million in projects annually.

Shelley Ostrowski, founder, Realty One Group Gateway

In June 2009, Ostrowski could not get out of bed. Five months of testing later, including a hysterectomy, lumpectomy and mastectomy, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

After undergoing treatment, business partner Matias Rosales was diagnosed with endocrine cancer. They both fought to remission, but in 2013 Ostrowski’s husband Joe – their fellow business partner – passed away.

Summoning all her strength, drawing inspiration from her volunteer work with Make-A-Wish, Ostrowski forged ahead. She opened her own real estate business in 2019 and is today the incoming treasurer of the Arizona Association of REALTORS.

Mary Purkiss, co-founder, Iron Medical Systems

In 2000, Mary Purkiss and her husband Ed owned a call center business with over 500 employees. Life was good.

And then she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Six surgeries later, during which time they sold their business, Mary and Ed emerged ready to repay the medical community, first as technology and business consultants to doctors and then by launching Iron Medical Systems, a cloud technology that allows physicians to work anywhere from any device.

Today, Iron boasts clients from Hawaii to Maine, and everywhere in between.   

Jeri Royce, CEO, Esperança

In July 2017, while consulting for the nonprofit organization, the board of directors for Esperança asked Royce to step in as the organization’s interim CEO.

Within four months of accepting that role, Royce learned she had breast cancer.

When faced with her own health crisis, Royce felt a renewed commitment to be of service to those who were not as fortunate as she.

In March 2018, breast cancer in remission, Royce transitioned to full-time CEO of Esperança, notably leading the globally and locally focused nonprofit as it celebrates its milestone 50th anniversary throughout this year.

Cari Sparks, senior account manager and sales strategist, Pioneer Title Agency

Sparks got the shock of her life when diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer in 1998.

Determined, despite many doctors’ outlooks, she fought to survive and thrive. By 2002, she was in the top 1 percent of producers at her then-title agency.

Her climb continued until 2012, when one day Sparks felt the left side of her face sag. She’d had a stroke. Resilience won out again; she fought through therapy and recovered.

Today, a leader at Pioneer Title Agency, she drives client and community outreach campaigns statewide.