More from my recent interview with Chris Spielman on his new book, "That's Why I'm Here: The Chris and Stefanie Spielman Story," which chronicles his wife Stefanie's 11-year battle with breast cancer. Stephanie died in November, 2009.
Q: The notes you included that you received, did those show you the impact Stefanie had on people you didn’t know?
A: “For us they were comforting. It’s always nice to get conformation.”
Q: Your foundations recently reached a big milestone?
A: “$10 million. That was announced at the annual Caregivers Luncheon we have, which are nominated by cancer survivors.
“That’s a credit to the people at The James (Cancer Center at Ohio State), me living to the promises I made to be the best dad I can be and to carry this legacy forward.
We hold people accountable for that fund. If I’m going to ask people for money, I want their money to go to research, all of it. We evaluate what they’re doing in the labs. If they’re not showing promising results, we’ll take the money and put it somewhere else, into new research. That makes our fund unique. There’s a lot of fine organizations, but not a lot of them can say 100 percent goes to research because they have overhead. We have the luxury of not having overhead.”
Q: I’ve heard there are even breast cancer tissue banks now?
A: “That’s what we started. The fund started a tumor bank four or five years ago, which was one of our big selling points. Because there’s so many different kinds of breast cancers and drugs respond to different types, it provides a valuable resource for testing different types of drugs.”
Q: Will the book’s release dredge up old pain?
A: “There’s good and bad. There’s more good emotions than bad emotions. He wants you to celebrate, not mourn. It’s not easy, but I know what (the book) is doing.
Q: You started writing the book six months before Stefanie died. Was it cathartic in a way?
A: “No, I wouldn’t say that. Stef and I could fulfill our mission and continue helping people deal with all the news that comes with cancer and all the situations and all the experiences, including death.
“For her it metastasized to the wrong area. I know people who have lived 20 years with Stage IV breast cancer.”
Q: Your oldest children Maddie and Noah seemed very impressive with how they dealt with their mom’s illness. Did you marvel at how strong they were?
A: “Yes I do, and I also know they still have their own challenges they deal with in the loss of their mother. But how they handle it and how they smile each day is better than I could have hoped for. I used to pray for God’s mercy with a healing for Stef. When that wasn’t going to happen, I recognized His mercy in how all of my kids, not just Maddie and Noah, have handled the loss of their mother.
“There are still challenges. We never shielded them from anything. They grew up, all their memories, Noah’s for sure, are in the cancer world and living with recurrences and good news and bad news. They knew Stef went to some funerals and they knew that was a possibility.”
Q: They seemed wise beyond their years.
A: “They are faith-based and faith-driven. One of the things we always talk about, the last part of her life, the cancer took her speaking ability and her mind and her body, where she wasn’t all there. When they know she’s restored in all her glory, I think that gives them great comfort, which in turn helps them deal with the loss of their mother.”