Former Ohio State linebacker Chris Spielman might not have known where his life would take him, but his wife Stefanie knew exactly why she was here.
Spielman said the title of the book, “That’s Why I’m Here: The Chris and Stefanie Spielman Story,” was inspired by something his wife said at an event to a young woman who was diagnosed with cancer.
“The lady felt like she was burdening Stefanie, and that’s when Stefanie grabbed her hand and said ‘Don’t you understand? That’s why I’m here,’” Spielman said.
His wife’s battle with cancer began at the age of 30, after a lump was found in her breast. She battled cancer for 11 years, until her death Nov. 19, 2009.
“I started writing the book shortly after we found out that Stefanie’s cancer was terminal. You start kind of revealing the journey that not only you’re on, but you start revealing your life and getting ready to deal with such a difficult loss,” Spielman said.
Chris Spielman’s oldest daughter, Maddie Spielman, who is a second-year in communication at OSU, said she wrote an excerpt at the age of 15 while her mother was sick, which Chris Spielman included in the book.
“I wanted kids to know that they’re not alone. I know oftentimes when someone loses a parent or a loved one, they go through that battle and my main purpose was to write something that kids could relate to,” Maddie Spielman said.
Along with wanting the book to be relatable, Maddie Spielman said she was honest and open about her experience.
“The book is essentially a story of our life,” Maddie Spielman said.
Chris Spielman said the book goes through his own growth as he starts by discussing his career as a football player and a protective father, then travels through his journey to becoming more humbled.
“The book will tell you how I kind of put football above everything else. Not that I wasn’t a good husband or a good father, I was just obsessed with being the best football player I could be,” Chris Spielman said.
Chris Spielman played with the Detroit Lions from 1988-95, followed by two years with the Buffalo Bills and a season with the Cleveland Browns.
Through Stefanie’s diagnosis, Chris Spielman said he began to question his goals and his purpose.
“There was kind of a transformation where the older I got and I started having children and the diagnosis with cancer, I had to ask myself a hard question of ‘Who am I and what is ultimately important?’” Chris Spielman said.
His daughter attested to that change in his path.
“He gave up everything for my mom. He took a year off football when she got sick, and I think that is when he first started to experience this change, and (see) what is important in life,” Maddie Spielman said.
The book also describes the connection that Chris and Stefanie Spielman had during their time together.
“I was fortunate to be able to see their relationship they had for 15 years, and just to see their true and unconditional love that they had for each other,” Maddie Spielman said.
Along with the unconditional love, Chris Spielman said his four children were his emotional support throughout the experience.
“I think as a father raising kids at that time, you just don’t know how they’re going to react at such, at such a difficult time. For me, watching them go back to school and continue doing sports, being with their friends and continue doing their best, obviously they struggled at times, but were able to deal with a very public loss,” Chris Spielman said.
The Stefanie Spielman fund “is devoted to advancing research in breast cancer,” according to the fund’s website.
Though seeing his children smile and continue going through their daily lives helped him in dealing with sadness, Chris Spielman said religion also played a heavy role in his family’s life and essentially helped their family during Stefanie’s illness.
“Our faith gave Stefanie and ourselves a lot of peace because we knew where she was going and according to our belief, there would no more fear, no more sorrow, no more pain,” Chris Spielman said.
Chris Spielman said Stefanie’s illness did not stop her from doing as much fundraising as possible for cancer awareness.
“We always realized that we are in the position to help people. For whatever reason, we were given a platform and for whatever reason, we felt with that platform we can make a difference in somebody’s life, whether it was one person or a million people,” Chris Spielman said.
Throughout her mother’s illness, Maddie Spielman said Stefanie never let that illness stop her from helping others.
“I think we found our strength through her strength, I am fortunate enough to have a family that loves and supports each other through everything,” Maddie Spielman said.
Through her and Chris Spielman’s dedication, the Spielman Fund has raised more than $14 million since 1998.
Chris Spielman said the Spielman Fund gives the ability to help others and their family members as well.
“We also have a patient assistance fund, which helps folks with basic needs that are struggling with cancer, whether it be groceries or gas money,” Chris Spielman said.
He also said the patience assistance fund helps people who might be struggling to afford therapy or any necessities.
Chris Spielman said the ultimate goal of the Spielman fund is to fight cancer, a disease that has affected so many lives.
According to data from the American Cancer Society, more than 1.66 million new cases of cancer were expected to be diagnosed in 2013.
Maddie Spielman, who hopes to become an ESPN reporter, said she also plans to continue to work with the Spielman fund.
“The Spielman Fund is a part of me, and I am always going to speak on behalf of it and be involved in it, because to me, it is my mom,” Maddie Spielman said.
Maddie Spielman said her mother chose to share her experiences as a way of impacting other people’s lives.
“A lot of people go through life not finding their purpose, and not finding what they want to do with their time on Earth. My mom was fortunate enough to not only know her purpose, but to act upon it,” Maddie Spielman said.
Correction: Jan. 15, 2014
A previous version of this article stated Chris Spielman played for the Detroit Tigers, when in fact, he played for the Detroit Lions.