Stefanie Spielman succumbs to cancer

Updated: November 20, 2009, 11:53 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Stefanie Spielman, the wife of NFL and Ohio State star Chris Spielman who led a public fight against breast cancer, died Thursday after a lengthy battle with the disease. She was 42.

Stefanie Spielman died at the family's home in Upper Arlington, surrounded by her family, according to WBNS radio in Columbus, where Chris Spielman co-hosts a show.

[+] EnlargeStefanie Spielman
Courtesy Emily Meyer, Ohio State Stefanie Spielman, with her husband, Chris, and their four children, attended an Ohio State ceremony honoring Chris' induction into the College Football Hall of Fame.

"Stefanie has gone home to be with the Lord," Chris Spielman said in a statement released by the station. "For that, we celebrate, but with broken hearts. I want to thank everyone for their support over the last 12 years. Together, with your help, hopefully we made a difference in this fight."

Stefanie Spielman was 30 years old and three months pregnant in 1998 when she detected a lump in her breast. She later miscarried and discovered she had cancer. She survived four bouts with cancer before a fifth recurrence in March.

Chris Spielman was playing linebacker with the Buffalo Bills when he decided to give up football for a year to stay home with his wife and children. When his wife lost her hair because of chemotherapy treatments, he shaved his head.

"People say, 'It's a great thing that you're doing,' " Chris Spielman said at the time. "I always say it would be a terrible thing if I didn't."

The Spielmans became advocates for breast-cancer detection and research, winning several awards for their dedication to the cause.

The Spielmans raised more than $6 million for research at Ohio State through the Stefanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research.

She helped form a support group for young women with breast cancer, hosted an annual event that honored cancer survivors and created a fund to help breast cancer patients and their families who struggled financially. She was inducted into the Ohio Women's Hall of Fame in 2002 for her work.

"We have lost a leader in the fight against cancer," seven-time Tour de France winner and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong said. "Stefanie was a living example of courage and strength to everyone around her. "

Two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin, the president and CEO of the Ohio State Alumni Association, said Stefanie Spielman was a compassionate person who "took her personal struggle and used it as a platform to help other women battling breast cancer." He said the Ohio State community was "tremendously saddened" by her death.

Chris Spielman played 10 seasons in the NFL with the Detroit Lions and the Bills before retiring after a violent hit that left him momentarily paralyzed when he was with the Cleveland Browns.

"The Lions' family is deeply saddened with the passing of a good friend," the Lions said in a statement. "Stefanie touched the hearts of everyone who knew her. With her strong faith and Chris' devoted support, Stefanie smiled in the face of adversity and used her battle with cancer to help countless others. She was and always will be an inspiration. Our heartfelt prayers and thoughts go to Chris and the family."

Spielman is currently a college football analyst at ESPN.

Stefanie Spielman is survived by her husband and their four children, Madison, Noah, Macy and Audrey.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.