Top row (left to right): Bill Wells (2009 Honorary Chair), Jennifer Bowsher, Danielle Lashley, David Halley MD, Susan Falzarano, Jack Davis, Randy Gale Nance II, Jackie Wells (2009 Honorary Chair). Bottom Row (left to right): Jessica Bowsher, Gail Lashley, Rhonnesa Nelms, Patricia Stanseski, Julie Davis, Iris Colemire. Please scroll down to read their touching stories.
The tenth anniversary of Stefanie’s Champions was held on Wednesday, April 15, honoring another six special heroes in the lives of cancer patients during a luncheon award ceremony at the Greater Columbus Convention Center’s grand ballroom. Approximately 700 people attended the luncheon ceremony. Stefanie Spielman established Stefanie’s Champions to recognize one of the most critical factors in surviving cancer: loving, unwavering support.
The event benefits The Stefanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research and The Stefanie Spielman Patient Assistance Fund at Ohio State’s Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute. Since 1999, more than $5 million has been raised by the Stefanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research at The James.
Special Thanks to Our 2009 Sponsors
Presenting Sponsor: William H. Davis, Dorothy M. Davis and William C. Davis Foundation
Champion Sponsors: The Kroger Company, Mills/James Productions; Roche-Oncology Division
Luncheon Sponsors: Abigail and Les Wexner
CHAMPION: Randy Gale (RG) Nance II
Iris M. Colemire of Columbus, Ohio, was referred to Ohio State’s James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute because she was having trouble swallowing pills. Something seemingly so minor turned out to be life-threatening throat cancer. She credits her son, Randy, with giving her the power to battle the cancer.
Randy had been dealing with his own medical issues, including recovering from a broken back and an eye surgery that left him blind in one eye. Even though Randy was in pain himself, he made his mother his top priority. He gave her hope for her future, despite the doctor’s prognosis of about one year to live.
Wearing an eye patch and back brace, Randy, along with other family members, surprised Iris with food, cakes and flowers. Through his encouraging words, Randy helped his mother believe she could win her battle with cancer. When Iris began numerous radiation treatments and started receiving nourishment through a feeding tube, Randy managed the feedings and went to the pharmacy everyday.
When his father, who has Alzheimer’s disease, left the gas stove burners on, Randy installed fire safety equipment and started spending more time with him each day.
Iris had to have her feeding tube pulled after it became infected and the antibiotics she was taking gave her a serious intestinal infection. Randy took on more responsibilities by doing laundry, housework for his parents and handling their finances.
During her last treatments, Iris was so weak and talked about quitting, but with her loving son at her side, she completed her treatments.
“Everyday he told me I’d make it and that he loved me,” writes Iris. “There is not a selfish bone in his body. They might have been broken, but they were not selfish. Randy is the reason I am a cancer survivor!”
CHAMPION: Dr. David Halley
Dr. David Halley stepped in to help at one of the most crucial times in the life of his co-worker, Rhonnesa Nelms. He provided shelter, support and comfort to her family while she battled breast cancer.
Rhonnesa works in the orthopedic department at The Ohio State University Medical Center, where Dr. Halley once worked as a surgeon before moving his practice to Marion, Ohio. In 2003, Rhonnesa and her six children moved into a house that Dr. Halley purchased just for them.
In 2007 when Rhonnesa was diagnosed with breast cancer, Dr. Halley encouraged her to stay home from work and concentrate on healing instead of trying to rush back to her normal routine. Rhonnesa worried about falling behind on her rent payments, but Dr. Halley brushed aside her concerns and encouraged her to focus on recovery instead.
In addition to being her landlord, Dr. Halley has been a mentor to Rhonnesa and her children.
“Being there for my three sons and three daughters was my main concern. The overflowing love Dr. Halley gave to my children lifted a great burden off my shoulders,” writes Rhonnesa.
Dr. Halley has shown loving support for her children by attending their sporting and musical events and he often reminds them of the importance of education. He even found work for her sons and provided many delicious meals for the family. He also showered the family with gift baskets during the holidays.
“Nominating Dr. Halley for the Stefanie’s Champions Award is a special way to express my gratitude,” writes Rhonnesa.
CHAMPION: Jack Davis
Just three years after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, Julie Davis of Galloway, Ohio, received more bad news. In 2006, she learned that she had a rare strain of chronic myeloid leukemia.
In addition to beginning a daily regimen of the chemotherapy drug Gleevec, she endured an ongoing series of doctor visits, blood draws, and bone marrow biopsies. Her husband, Jack Davis, selflessly faced the challenges of the disease, being a constant and unwavering source of support, love and courage.
Living with a chronic and life-threatening disease, daily life was a challenge for Julie. Since she was extremely fatigued, Jack did most of the cooking, grocery shopping, housekeeping and laundry. He would try to lift his wife’s spirits, remaining hopeful for their future. Jack never left her side, advocating for her at every turn. He agreed to be trained to administer one of her drugs at home, with the help of a nurse, so that Julie would not have to be hospitalized.
After her diagnosis, Jack checked with his employer and was stunned to learn that medical benefits had been phased out of the company’s retirement package. Knowing that medical benefits were something his wife desperately needed, Jack resigned from his insurance job of 22 years and began a new career at The Ohio State University Medical Center as a patient services coordinator. In his new job, Jack interacts with patients and families all day, every day, helping them solve problems. He offers a listening ear and tries to ease the burdens of those who are hurting, weak and sick.
“His genuineness, compassion, and desire to serve shine through to everyone he comes in contact with. These are the very qualities he shows to me everyday,” writes Julie. “Although he is a champion to many at OSU Medical Center, first and foremost Jack is my champion!”
CHAMPION: Jennifer Bowsher
Just as Jessica Bowsher thought her life was on the right track, she was involved in a car accident that fractured one of her femurs.
In 2007, about a year after the accident, Jessica started to have pain in her knee. Her local doctor referred her to Dr. Joel Mayerson at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute to review her X-rays. When Mayerson diagnosed her with osteosarcoma – a form of bone cancer – her life was turned upside down.
The next week, Jessica started chemotherapy to treat the bone cancer, and started worrying about the future of her 4-year-old son, Isaiah.
Jessica’s mother, Jennifer Bowsher, drove four hours roundtrip to Columbus for Jessica’s chemotherapy treatments at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, where Dr. Mayerson has a joint appointment. With her daughter unable to drive, Jennifer stepped in to take Jessica to appointments.
Jennifer took a job at a family owned fast food restaurant in Lima, Ohio, which allowed her to work flexible hours so that she could take care of her daughter. Jennifer chose to be at almost all appointments because she did not want Jessica to be alone. Jessica begged her mother to stay at home and spend time with her son, Isaiah, since she could not.
“It makes me feel more strong and confident that I knew she was with my son and he was safe and taken care of. I could do the treatments with no worries. She has been my champion my whole life and a million times more in the past few years. She is the most unselfish person that I know. She helped me to become so thankful for my life. She really believed in me and kept me smiling.”
With the help of her mother, Jessica has a whole new outlook on life. Jessica, who had a total knee replacement and limb salvage, has been in remission for the last 10 months, and back to work full time. She says she no longer takes life for granted.
CHAMPION: Patty’s Pit Crew, lead by Susan Falzarano
The “Bunko Babes” are a group of women from a Marysville, Ohio, neighborhood who get together to play the popular dice game, bunko. When Patricia was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007, these women became her main support system, aiding in the name change to “Patty’s Pit Crew.”
Wearing pink to the bunko meetings, the group members organized ways to show support for Patricia in their neighborhood. Before her first chemotherapy treatment, the group obtained pink light bulbs donated from the local Ace Hardware store, and asked the residents to change their outside garage lights to pink bulbs. The neighborhood not only shined brightly with pink lights, but neighbors also tied pink ribbons to all of the trees lining the sidewalk on Patricia’s street.
Susan, the ringleader of Patty’s Pit Crew, coordinated a plan for the women in the group to attend chemotherapy treatments with Patricia. They would take notes and ask questions; showing unwavering support. During the six months of treatment, the women provided Patricia with rides to appointments and meals at her home. The group also arranged an evening at Supper Thyme USA, which donated several meals on her behalf.
“These women have been an unbelievable support system for me during my treatment, surgery and beyond. I could not have made it through without them. They supported me as I lost my hair and cheered me on as it grew back. My surviving cancer was not an option for them, it was an expectation. I am eternally grateful for all they did for me and my family.”
Patty’s Pit Crew members who helped Patricia battle her cancer are Susan Falzarano, Carrie Milroy, Carrie Weigand, Donna Berry, Sally Berry, Kim Clark, Jenny Watkins, Sue Weitzel, Jennifer Dye, Jennifer Read, Candice McKenzie, Chris Buckner, Jan Bellomo, Lorie Haskell, Cathe Workman, Amanda Johnson, Kristin Raiter and Melissa Botkin.
CHAMPION: Danielle Nicole Lashley
Just 30 days after losing her mother to lung cancer, Gail Lashley received the dreaded words, “you’ve got cancer.” Her 15-year-old daughter, Danielle stood by her side with bravery as Gail struggled with breast cancer.
Danielle spent three days sitting in the atrium, the family waiting room at The Ohio State University Medical Center, while Gail underwent multiple surgeries. Unlike most teen-agers with learner’s permits, Danielle accumulated driving hours taking her mother to chemotherapy treatments. During one treatment, Gail was unexpectedly hospitalized and Danielle had to call someone else to pick her up, because legally she could not drive home herself. Danielle often stayed with her mother, holding her hand during painful procedures. She even risked failing out of school due to poor attendance so that Gail would never have to face a single doctor’s appointment alone.
Danielle asked the questions her mother was afraid to, and made sure the doctors spoke in a language that they both would understand. She dried her mother’s tears when she cried, worrying about the unknown. Danielle gave up dance classes and chose to be with her mom instead of hanging out with her friends.
Danielle turned 16 in April and put off getting her driver’s license because classes interfered with taking her mother to treatments. Danielle wasn’t upset by the lack of a party or presents on what should have been her special birthday. But just because Danielle didn’t get to have her own birthday party, that didn’t stop her from throwing a surprise party for Gail’s 40th birthday in June.
“Everyone should have a Danielle in their life. And some do. She has become an Imerman Angel, connecting with other caregivers her own age, providing those same encouraging words and acts of kindness to others,” writes Gail. Together, Danielle and Gail have created a LIVESTRONG Army in their Mount Vernon community and Danielle walks/runs in multiple Relay for Life and Race for the Cure events.
“I don’t know many teenagers who willingly do what she does,” writes Gail. “I would not be where I am today, without Danielle.”