Anne Hermiller approached her book club in the summer of 2012 with That’s Why I’m Here, Chris Spielman’s new release detailing his relationship with his wife Stefanie and her battle against cancer. Little did Anne know how significant this book would become to her in the next few years.
Anne is an extremely active, nonsmoking mother of three who eats a low-fat diet, avoids red meat and doesn’t have a family history of cancer. One evening in July 2014, after she had completed a TRX (suspension training) class, she felt a tennis ball-sized lump in her stomach. Anne assumed it was a hernia but made an appointment with her doctor just to be safe. Upon finding a large cancerous mass during a pelvic examination the following day, her doctor informed her that this was going to be more serious.
The next evening, Anne returned to the hospital for a CT scan. Less than two hours later, she was sitting at home when her doctor called to tell her how large the mass had grown and that she would need extensive surgery. He referred her to colleagues at the University of Toledo, but she preferred to go to The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James). She knew that if she went to the OSUCCC – James, she would receive care from “someone who specializes only in ovarian cancer.”
Anne was referred to David Cohn, MD, professor and director of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology at Ohio State and a member of the Translational Therapeutics Program at the OSUCCC – James. When she came to the Stefanie Spielman Comprehensive Breast Center to meet with him, she couldn’t believe that now she’d be treated in a facility named after the inspirational woman she had chosen to read about two years ago.
Stefanie Spielman was the wife of Ohio State and NFL football player Chris Spielman. At age 30, Stefanie was diagnosed with breast cancer. During her cancer journey, she and Chris started the Stefanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research, which has raised more than $20 million to date. In November 2009, after a decade-long fight, Stefanie lost her battle with breast cancer but continues to be an inspiration to many, including Anne.
After examination, Dr. Cohn determined Anne would need surgery. He scheduled the procedure for the following week. With the support of her husband Jerry, her children and her faith, Anne entered the surgery.
The cancer was stage 3C. Dr. Cohn removed three large tumors and performed a complete hysterectomy. Over the next four months, Anne would receive chemotherapy to reduce the chances of the cancer returning.
In November 2014, she returned to the Stefanie Spielman Comprehensive Breast Center for her third series of chemo and was in her room when a hospital volunteer stopped to ask if she needed anything. Anne and the volunteer began talking about their love for the Buckeyes. Anne showed off her Ohio State blanket, reading glasses and phone case. They shared stories about game days and their families. Anne was struggling to stay alert due to the medication, but she enjoyed the conversation too much to go to sleep. The volunteer said that her sister had been diagnosed with breast cancer. When Anne asked more about her sister, the volunteer shared that her sister was the late Stefanie Spielman.
Anne was in shock. “You’re Sue!” she exclaimed. “I already know you from Chris’ book!”
After they parted, Anne continued with her treatment and made it her mission not to miss out on work or church. She wanted her life to go back to normal. On exceptionally difficult days, she attempted to emulate Stefanie’s strength and remembered the kindness that Sue had shown her. The following February, Anne had her final surgery.
In response to the great care she received, Anne became active in supporting the Stefanie Spielman Comprehensive Breast Center by participating in the Step Up for Stefanie’s Champions 4-mile run.
Today, Anne thinks very fondly of the care she received at the OSUCCC – James and the Spielman Center, and she is grateful for the continuous inspiration she gained from the Spielman family to continue fighting.