Lunch of Champions

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

Stefanie Spielman was so inspired when her husband Chris selflessly put his pro football career on hold after she was diagnosed with breast cancer, she decided to create an award to honor him and others like him. Stefanie's Champions pays tribute to caregivers, an essential but often overlooked part of the cancer treatment process.

"In our tenth year, we continue to celebrate the compassionate caregivers who work so diligently to improve the lives of cancer patients during and after treatment. These caregivers play crucial roles in the healing process, and deserve to be honored," Stefanie said in a press release.

This year's six nominees will be honored during the Stefanie's Champions luncheon at noon today at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. Proceeds will go to the Stefanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center and The James. Stefanie was first treated for cancer at the James in 1998, and since she started the fund in 1999, more than $5 million has been raised.

Here's a look at this year's champions:

Randy Nance Jr., 31

Randy Nance was already dealing with medical problems of his own-- recovering from a broken back and an eye surgery that left him blind in one eye-- when his mother, Iris Colemire, was diagnosed with throat cancer. But he didn't hesitate in doing all he could to help his mother.

He brought her food and flowers to the hospital, kept her morale up (even after the doctors gave her only about a year to live), picked up her prescriptions every day and helped her operate her feeding tube. He eventually even started doing laundry and housework for his parents and handling their finances, as well as spending extra time with his father, who has Alzheimer's disease.

Dr. David Halley, 60

After Rhonessa Nelms, 54, was diagnosed with breast cancer, she was eager to get back to work in the orthopedic department at OSU Medical Center right away so she wouldn't fall behind on her rent payments. But her co-worker, Dr. David Halley, who worked as a surgeon in the department before moving his practice to Marion, urged her to stay home from work and focus on her recovery.

To help, Halley purchased a house for Nelms and her six children and acted as their landlord. But that's not all-- he also became a mentor for her children, attending their sporting events, finding them jobs, and providing them meals and gift baskets during the holidays.

Jack Davis, 48

The bad news just kept on coming for the Davis family of Galloway -- just three years after she was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, Julie Davis found out she had a rare strain of chronic myeloid leukemia. And then her husband, Jack, learned that medical benefits had been phased out of his retirement package at his insurance job of 22 years.

Jack never faltered. He resigned from his job and went to work at the OSU Medical Center as a patient services coordinator. He also learned how to administer Julie's medications at home, so she wouldn't have to be hospitalized, and took on the responsibilities of cooking, grocery shopping, housekeeping and laundry.

Jennifer Bowsher, 48

When her daughter Jessica Bowsher, 25, learned she had osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer, Jennifer Bowsher quickly stepped in to do what she could to help. The Bowshers live in Lima, but Jennifer's local doctor referred her to Dr. Joel Mayerson, who has a joint appointment at the James Cancer Hospital and Nationwide Children's Hospital, so she started chemotherapy treatments in Columbus.

Jennifer drove four hours round-trip from Lima to be with her daughter during every appointment. And to accommodate the new schedule, she took a job at a family-owned fast food restaurant, where she could work flexible hours to be with her daughter and spend time with her four-year-old grandson.

Patty's Pit Crew, led by Susan Falzarano, 47

Patty's Pit Crew used to be known as the Bunko Babes, a group of Marysville neighbors who got together to play Bunko. But when fellow Babe Patricia Stanseski, 51, was diagnosed with breast cancer, the women changed their name in solidarity. And that's not all they did.

They became Stanseski's main support system, going with her to chemotherapy treatments, taking notes and asking the doctors questions, and making meals for Stanseski and her family.

They got the entire neighborhood in on supporting their friend, too, asking all the residents to switch the light bulbs in their outside garage lights to pink ones and tying pink ribbons on the trees lining Stanseski's street.

Danielle Nicole Lashley, 16

Danielle was only 15 when her mom, Gail Ann Lashley, 40, learned she had breast cancer. The Mount Vernon teenager showed compassion beyond her years, giving up dance classes and hanging out with friends to be by her mom's side during her multiple surgeries and numerous doctor's appointments.

The young driver racked up hour on her learner's permit by taking her mom to chemotherapy appointments, and then she postponed taking driver's ed classes because they interfered with her chemo schedule. And even though she didn't get a big Sweet 16 bash, she took it upon herself to throw a surprise party for Gail's 40th birthday that year.