Survivor Steps Up to Support Breast Cancer Research

Step Up for Stefanie  OSUCCC James

After receiving the results of a recent mammogram while celebrating her retirement in Washington D.C., Teri Strahine and her husband cut their vacation short to rush home for an ultrasound.

“The tech left the room, and when she came back she said, ‘The doctor recommends you schedule a biopsy.’ I was shocked,” Strahine says. Within days, she was sitting in the office of William Farrar, MD, a surgical oncologist, interim CEO of the James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute and director of the Stefanie Spielman Comprehensive Breast Center.

“He recommended a second ultrasound and a biopsy, but I was in denial. I asked him if we could wait. He said, ‘No, it’s growing.’ My heart dropped. I had worked hard to create a wonderful life for my family, and six months into retirement, this happened.”

Strahine, who had recently decided to sell her call center company, had just bought a dream house on the water with her husband. They were empty nesters with big plans to travel and enjoy their newfound time together. Instead, she scheduled a biopsy.

Fight over Flight

“It was cancer. I remember the nurse called and said, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t have good news.’

I wanted to come in first thing the next morning to see Dr. Farrar, and he agreed even though I later found out he was scheduled for vacation that day.”

Strahine had a lumpectomy for her stage one breast cancer, which had not spread to her lymph nodes. After six weeks of radiation, she was cancer-free. Then, ready to take back control of her life, she jumped into the larger fight against cancer.

“I became a volunteer at the Spielman Center, in the radiation area. I sat with the women who were waiting to go in for the treatments, to answer questions and talk with them, but after several months, it became too difficult.”

Teamwork makes the Dream Work

Strahine decided instead to throw herself into fundraising for the Step Up for Stefanie’s Champions Walk/Run (benefitting the Stefanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research at the OSUCCC – James) reaching out to her vast network of friends and family, especially those in Westerville, where she raised her children for more than 20 years.

“I decided I wasn’t going to email these people to ask them to join my team. I was going to call each and every one because this was too important.”

In its first year, Strahine’s team, Teri’s Tatas, had 138 participants. In 2017, her team of 172 was the largest at the event and raised more than $12,000. Teri and her husband, a former Ohio State football player, also became event sponsors.

Learning from Experience

Strahine becomes serious when she thinks about the woman whose name graces the center. “I never had the privilege of meeting Stefanie Spielman, but I thought about her a lot when I was diagnosed. I was fortunate that my children were older when I was diagnosed. Hers were so young.”

In addition to her role as leader of Teri’s Tatas—she hopes membership reaches 200 in 2018—Strahine has also become a source of support for the women around her.

“Women text me when they’re going in for their mammograms. It puts everyone on edge. But you have to do it. And I want to get the word out about how important mammograms are. I also want to help find a cure so my daughter and the next generation won’t have to deal with this.”

Learn more about the Step Up for Stefanie's Champions Walk/Run, including registration and donation info.