Spielman continues wife’s fight against breast cancerWritten by Chris Schmidbauer | | email@example.com
There is an old saying, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.”
That adage could have been written about former Ohio State Buckeye and Detroit Lion Chris Spielman.
Standing at just 6 feet and weighing 247 pounds during his playing days, Spielman might have been undersized when it came to football. But it was the legendary linebacker’s work ethic and determination that often gave him an edge against the competition.
“As a player, I was driven because I was never satisfied and I always wanted to do better than I did before,” Spielman said at the ProMedica sponsored The Putting Classic at Belmont Country Club on July 14.
“Maybe one day I will be someone who stops to smell the roses, but it is just not in my makeup.”
Despite being retired from football since 1999, Spielman still shows flashes of the grit and determination that made him a hero of the gridiron. Now, Spielman channels his energy into his family’s fight against breast cancer.
Many know his inspirational story: In 1998, Spielman took a year off from the NFL to be with his family after his wife, Stefanie, was diagnosed with breast cancer. The hiatus, which is relatively uncommon in professional sports, catapulted the Spielmans into a much different role — a family battling cancer.
The Spielmans became public face in the country for breast cancancer awareness. The family started the Stefanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research at The Ohio State University, which has raised more than $7 million for cancer research since its inception in 1999.
Stefanie, after battling breast cancer for 12 years, lost her fight last fall.
Despite losing the love of his life, Spielman continues his fight, and the Putting Classic is just one of the ways the 44-year-old continues to champion his wife’s cause.
“A few days before Stefanie passed away, I promised her I would be the best dad I could be and I would continue to fight for her cause,” he said. “Breast cancer doesn’t just affect those in and around Columbus and the fight doesn’t stop because she died, so we fight on.”
Spielman’s story continues to inspire many, which is why the people at the Toledo Hospital Breast Cancer Care Center, the benefactors of the Putting Classic, chose him to be their event’s keynote speaker.
“Many people who are confronted with breast cancer don’t grasp the full gravity of the situation, and Chris Spielman has battled this disease,” said Dr. Robin Shermis, medical director of the hospital’s breast cancer center. “To have someone who has raised money and fought so valiantly for cancer research speak at this event is truly powerful.”
Spielman said he is extremely proud of the results from the money raised by the Stefanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research.
“We have helped set up a tumor bank, where tumors are sent to be tested to see how drugs affect different tumors and we have also helped set up an assistance fund for families that may not have the resources they need to help them in their fight, and we have been able to provide those things,” he said.
The College Football Hall of Fame inductee has four children at home, who Spielman said, have shown flashes of their mother’s tenacity and spirit.
“My kids have grown up around cancer and they have seen what the disease can do,” he said. “They have shown a real passion to try and make a difference and that is great to see.”
Spielman has said that while the death of his wife has been difficult, his faith has given him and his family comfort during this difficult time.
“To see the state that Stefanie was in prior to her death was not the vibrant mother and wife we have known,” he said. “When she passed, it was a great relief to know that she was free of the pain and that she was in a better place. To know she is with God for eternity is something we take great solace in.”
Chris Schmidbauer is sports editor for Toledo Free Press and Toledo Free Press Star. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He also can be heard every Tuesday at 11 a.m. on the Odd Couple Sports Show on Fox Sports Radio 1230 WCWA.