At a function Chris and Stefanie Spielman attended, a woman approached Stefanie and began unloading all her worries over her recent cancer diagnosis. Stefanie then tried to comfort her and asked her about her treatment plan and her family.
“The lady said, ‘I’m sorry for bothering you with all of this.’ And Stefanie said, ‘You don’t understand. That’s why I’m here.’ That’s the main inspiration for the book,” Chris Spielman, author of this year’s choice for Canton’s One Book One Community, said.
“One Book One Community is actually a program found in many communities to encourage a common read. They choose a book and then get a lot of people excited about reading it,” said Dr. Patty Long, Chair of the Education Department and member of the Canton Mayor’s Literacy Commission of which Canton’s One Book One Community is a subcommittee where Long serves as Chair.
This year’s One Book One Community selection, That’s Why I’m Here: The Chris and Stefanie Spielman Story, is co-authored by Chris Spielman and Bruce Hooley. The event gives Malone students and community members a chance to look into the life of a man they grew up watching on the football field and now know as an ESPN commentator. One Book One Community will be kicking off with guest speaker Chris Spielman in the Johnson Center Auditorium at 7pm on October 2.
His focus will be “about the experience and what I went through and where I’m going. Living with purpose, I guess. If I had a title to the talk, I guess that is what it would be,” Spielman said.
The book recounts Spielman’s life, paying specific attention to his marriage and family, and culminating in his wife’s 11 year battle with cancer. He feels that playing football helped him prepare for what would happen later in life.
“Football is a direct reflection of life,” Spielman said. “You have challenges but you have to keep playing to the end.”
Long said, “[the book] talks about the stuff of life. It’s about setting priorities. Chris had a major shift in his priorities once he found out that his wife had breast cancer.”
Spielman said about his priorities, “When you are confronted with challenges, you have to be who you say you are. When I said ‘in sickness or in health’ I meant it. So I put my money where my mouth was.”
According to Malone’s press release, “it’s not just for football fans. It’s for people whose lives have been touched by cancer, for people whose own faith has wavered, for people who want to meet a woman of tremendous beauty, grace and strength.”
Both Chris and Stefanie Spielman are from Canton. In choosing this book to read Long said, “the local connection was very powerful. In addition he has made the personal story of his wife, Stefanie’s battle with cancer widely known. And much good has come as a result of people knowing their struggles relating to their battles with the illness and also caring for their four children. This book also has an intentional Christian theme.”
Stefanie Spielman was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1998. She was a four time cancer survivor before it returned for the fifth time, taking her life on November 19, 2009.
Spielman said his decision to write the book was “to provide hope through diagnosis, hope through five recurrences and hope after death. That good can still come out of it and that people can still live a full life, enjoy life to the maximum and continue living life.”
Since she was first diagnosed, the Spielman’s and their supporters have raised over nine million dollars for the Stefanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research. The Comprehensive Breast Cancer Center, part of The Ohio State University’s James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute was recently renamed in her honor.
“The whole purpose of going public with her disease was to raise awareness and help people navigate through some very hard times,” Spielman said.
Chris Spielman will be speaking to students and community members about his book. The event is free and open to the public. Spielman will be having a book signing before he speaks, beginning at 5:30pm.
In addition to the kickoff there are also programs and group discussions centered on the book. A roundtable discussion will be held in the Johnson Center at 7pm, October 16. The Stark County District Library is having a discussion about tackling breast cancer at 7pm, October 9. More information and events can be found at starklibrary.org/literacycommission
Kaitlyn Stump is a staff writer for The Aviso AVW