She's had breast cancer twice, anal cancer once and in between bouts lost her mother to breast cancer and her father to bladder cancer. But she's used these challenges to help others.
Last year Sterr, who coordinates Will County's problem solving courts, received the Glen Marcum Community Engagement Award.
Sterr, an event lead for Joliet's Relay for Life on June 2, has been involved Relay for Life in various ways since 2000 and even co-coordinated it with Glen Marcum for several years.
According to a 2016 Herald-News story, Marcum was first elected to the district's Board of Commissioners in 2011 and had been president since 2013. He died in 2016 from complications of bile duct cancer.
"When I stepped down, I remained on the committee working on survivor and caregiver activities, including the survivor dinner," Sterr said in an email.
Although Sterr said it feels good to be cancer-free, she's never completely at ease.
"You're just waiting for the other shoe to drop," Sterr said.
In 1994, Sterr found a lump on a breast self-exam. Scared, Sterr called her doctor.
"I was freaking out," Sterr said. "I thought I would get in right away and the doctor would say, 'It's no big deal.' But it takes a week to see the doctor and a week to get the mammogram and wait for the results. I'm trying to set up an appointment for biopsy thinking, 'I want to get this out of me' and it takes another week or two."
Eventually, Sterr was asked to come into the office – and to bring her mother with her. In addition, Sterr was in the middle of a divorce and learned her then soon-to-be ex-husband's insurance had lapsed.
Sterr needed a mastectomy and chemotherapy. Her children at the time were ages 1 and 3.
So she quit her job and went on public aid, a devastating move for a woman who'd spent her high school summers working and working full-time her entire life.
"Talk about a humbling experience," Sterr said. "It was a rough year."
But it was also the beginning of a cherished relationship with the American Cancer Society.
A local office fit Sterr with her first wig, she said.
"And I got to know about the 800 number for the American Cancer Society," Sterr said. "Because in those middle of the night times when I needed to talk to someone, they were there."
Six years later at her mammogram, Sterr was told, "We need to do an ultrasound."
"That's when the floor dropped," Sterr said. "They did the ultrasound and told me I would have to have a biopsy again. It was cancer again. And I had another mastectomy."