The XX Factor

RIP, Stefanie Spielman

Sad news out of Ohio: Funeral services will be held tomorrow for Stefanie Spielman, who died late last week at age 42 after a very long-and very public-struggle with breast cancer. Spielman might have been among the millions of women who face breast cancer quietly and privately if not for the gesture her husband, Chris, made upon her first diagnosis, at age 30.

At the time, Chris Spielman was a linebacker for the Buffalo Bills. He personified the rugged toughness so often associated with NFL players. But when Stefanie was diagnosed with cancer, he walked away from the game to be with her during her treatment. It’s easy to discount that decision-he had become wealthy playing a game for a living-but the NFL culture is such that teams used to balk at players missing games or practice for the birth of their children. For a player at the peak of his career, especially one as tenacious and competitive as Spielman, to put his family first was an incredible statement at the time.

Out of the game (he tried to come back after one season but an injury forced him to retire) but not the public eye, the Spielmans turned their energy into raising money to assist cancer patients and fund research. And while Chris might have been famous for his football exploits, Stefanie won hearts-and wallets-for her tireless energy advocating for others despite her own illness. Together they helped raise more than $6.5 million for the James Cancer Hospital at Ohio State, where the high school sweethearts attended college while Chris played for the Buckeyes.

This is not a commentary on mammogram guidelines or other health care issues. It’s just a reminder that terrible things happen to good people. And that good people can do amazing things when they are confronted with such a struggle. You can read more about Stefanie here . Sympathies to the Spielman family and their many, many friends.