BUFFALO, N.Y. — It’s never the challenge itself, but the way one responds to the challenge that defines a person.

In 2004, Stephanie Bish and her husband, Frank, got into real estate and a year later, they purchased their first rehab property. Frank, a contractor by trade, and Stephanie, a licensed real estate salesperson, formed a dynamic duo in the industry.

With two children together (Mariah and Nicholas) and a daughter (Jenny) from Frank’s previous relationship, by 2009, Stephanie and Frank had a successful real estate system in place all while Stephanie was attending nursing school.

Things were great for the Bish family.

Until August 2010, when the family received devastating news that Frank had been diagnosed with brain cancer.

“I am where I am because of special people that helped me during Frank’s treatment,” Stephanie said. “An example of this is my nursing instructor, who allowed me to do my clinicals in the same hospital Frank was being treated in. So I could always be around him and never had to go far. If I hadn’t had that opportunity, I would have had to drop out of nursing school, but instead, I was allowed to continue during the hardest time of my life.”

Nine months later, Frank’s battle came to a close and he passed away in May 2011.

Stephanie now had to make it through without the love of her life, the father of her children and her real estate partner.

“The real estate was something my husband and I had a vision of,” she said. “It was something that was bigger than us because our whole family could have been involved and it would have been a family business. Unfortunately, God had other plans.”

Having been dealt a situation far too difficult for most, Stephanie knew she had to do the right thing for her children.

“Through it all, I always said, ‘No matter what happens, we have to pick ourselves up from our bootstraps and move on,’” she explained. “Whatever you have to do, you have to continue to go. You can’t just stop.

“I also wanted my husband to be proud of me,” she continued. “I did not want to fall into a complete depression and become nothing. I also certainly wanted my children to be proud of me and I knew I had to lead by example. There have been times since his death that I’ve swayed or fallen, but I’ve always been able to get back up and change my mindset.”

Stephanie passed her New York State boards and began working as a nurse. It paid the bills — but it was far from her passion.

“Frank and I had built so much and we had so much success together, and I didn’t want that to fade,” she said. “For me, it was carrying on that torch of what we had created together.”

In 2014, Stephanie dialed back the nursing hours and joined WNY Metro Roberts Realty when an office in her hometown of Evans opened up. 

“I talk about all the God-sent people who helped me get to where I am today, and Jim Roberts is certainly one of them,” she explained. “The fact that he believed and invested in the Evans Area meant I could return to my real estate passion right here in the community I’ve lived in all my life.”

Since the career shift, Stephanie has created a happier life for her and her children, providing real estate services primarily in the community that rose up and supported her and her family during the toughest time of her life.

“Like nursing, real estate helps others, but just in a different way,” Stephanie explained. “With real estate, you’re helping someone find their dream home, or you’re helping someone downsize, or you’re helping someone get rid of a house that’s potentially putting them in a bad situation. I just want to help people, and doing nursing and real estate allows me to do so in two different but important ways.”

Having successfully raised her kids, she’s now a grandmother of four (Liam, Declan, Antonia and Elianna) and aside from infrequent on-call nursing shifts, she is a full-time real estate agent with the flexibility to be active in her grandchildren’s lives.

“In this second phase of my life, I am just so much more appreciative of all the little things than I was before,” she explained about her mindset. “Everything is a blessing. I woke up today. That’s a blessing.”

In the face of some of the toughest adversity one can face, Stephanie has come out stronger than imaginable, with an admirable mentality — while still maintaining a work ethic Frank would most certainly be proud of.