COLUMBUS, Ohio — Maddie Spielman was just 15 when her mother, Stefanie, lost her very public battle against breast cancer.
“She was all about courage, and she was all about strength, and she was all about family,” said Maddie.
For more than a decade, Stefanie Spielman sacrificed her privacy in hopes of helping other women in similar situations.
“In her mind, if just one person could identify with her story and feel like they’re not alone, it would be so worth it to her in the end,” Maddie told 10TV.
At the time, Maddie didn’t quite understand the impact her mother’s decision to share her cancer journey would have in central Ohio. But now, she gets it.
“You know, for my mom to put herself out there, I know that was a hard decision for her. But look at all the good that it’s done,” she said.
When asked to share a favorite memory of her mother, the now 28-year-old Maddie went to September 5, 2009, at Ohio Stadium.
It was one of Stefanie’s last public appearances. It was the day her husband, Chris Spielman, was honored during halftime because he was getting inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. Maddie said her mom wanted that moment to be all about Chris and not about her.
“I remember that she was confined to this wheelchair, and they wheeled us out there at halftime to honor my dad and she hadn’t had a lot of mobility leading up to that, but I just remember her holding up her fist and kind of fist-bumping, and she gave all of her strength just to show my dad that she was still here for him and still supporting him,” Maddie said. “That’s my mom in a nutshell. “
Thirteen years after her death, Stefanie still had more to give.
In 2021, a manuscript for a book called “Cancer Boo-Boo,” was found. Stefanie had written the book but was never able to complete her dream and get the book published.
The story is told from the perspective of a young Maddie to help parents and young children dealing with a cancer diagnosis. The discovery surprised the Spielman family and their friends. No one knew Stefanie was writing a book.
“I knew in that moment that I have to get this done for her. I have to get this published,” Maddie said.
And she did. Maddie said seeing their story on paper has been special for the entire family.
“I just hear her voice speaking through this book and it’s been so cool,” she said.
Stefanie worked tirelessly to raise breast cancer awareness and helped raise millions of dollars for Ohio State’s James Cancer Hospital. Now Maddie has stepped into those shoes, working as a fundraiser at The James.
“To be surrounded by cancer constantly, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t hard. But to see how fare we’ve come and the strides in research and advancements in technology that we’ve made, it just gives me hope that we are going to beat this thing and that’s why I wake up every day and continue to fight for a cure,” says Maddie.
You can order the book “Cancer Boo-Boo” here.