An Upper Arlington woman whose friendship with Stefanie Spielman compelled her to fight for a cancer-free world was honored last week with the Stefanie's Champion of Hope Award.
After meeting at a cancer fundraising event in 1999, Stefanie Spielman and Shannon Peterson of Upper Arlington instantly struck up a friendship.
Shortly thereafter, Peterson had her own scare with breast cancer -- a lump which ultimately was deemed benign.
Those events and Spielman's passion for fighting cancer through awareness and fundraising campaigns inspired Peterson to become a crusader for cancer research, particularly after Spielman succumbed to her fifth battle with cancer in 2009 at age 42.
The OSU Comprehensive Cancer Center-Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute presented Peterson with its 2013 Stefanie's Champion of Hope Award April 11 during the 14th annual Stefanie's Champions luncheon at the Ohio Union at OSU.
To date, Peterson has led a charge to raise more than $1 million for cancer research, including the formation of Stefanie's Team of Hope in the annual Pelotonia, a charity bicycle ride held in August to raise money for cancer research.
In 2012, Stefanie's Team of Hope was Pelotonia's highest non-corporate fundraising team for the third consecutive year. During that time, the team raised more than $822,000.
"Shannon struck up an immediate friendship (with Stefanie) and jumped right in to join the fight," said Chris Spielman, Stefanie's husband and OSU football legend. "Stefanie's memory is alive within her every day."
In accepting the award, Peterson said she was "overwhelmed with emotion right now and very honored and humbled."
"But for Stefanie Spielman, I wouldn't be standing here today," Peterson said. "It was Stefanie that helped me realize my life's mission was to help.
"It's because of Stefanie that I know, as many people do in the cancer community, that together we can and will create a cancer-free world. This award is not mine alone. We are all working together in this fight."
In addition to Peterson, five other caregivers -- including four from central Ohio -- were recognized as Stefanie's Champions.
•James Caudill of Dublin, honored for supporting his girlfriend, Bethany, who later became his wife, as she battled a rare form of cancer, neuroendocrine paraganglioma.
"I was so scared ... but James was my glue," Bethany Caudill said. "I now live with Stage 4 cancer. That's right, I live with it.
"Together, we live every day. Even with this, Jimmy is right there standing beside me."
•Dennis McFadden of Worthington, a 13-year survivor of colon cancer himself, who mentored and inspired Sherri Cooke through her fight with breast cancer.
McFadden and Cooke shared daily walks as part of their healing and recovery at any time of day Cooke called. She said he frequently lifted her spirits with gifts, such as cards and organic coffee, and stressed the importance of nutrition and remaining upbeat.
He also sang Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah to cheer her after surgery.
"I had a feeling that what I drew upon to get well was within her," McFadden said. "I believe in wellness models through diet and attitude."
•Kathy Peugh of Reynoldsburg, who quit her job and serves as primary caregiver for her mother-in-law, April Perkins of Johnstown, after Perkins was diagnosed with primary peritoneal cancer in 2011.
Peugh also is the primary caregiver for her own mother, who recently was diagnosed with colon cancer.
"Kathy is steadfast in her commitment and dedication to see our family through whatever we must get through together," Perkins said. "We just really enjoy doing things outside of worrying about cancer.
"We have a life to live, and she makes sure we do. I don't know how she has so much strength to take care of us all, but she does."
•David Zartman of Worthington, who his wife, Micki, calls a "caregiver warrior" for caring for her sister through a battle with Stage 4 uterine cancer, then for Micki through her fight with the same disease and also for his son-in-law, who was diagnosed with acute lymphatic leukemia shortly after Micki's radiation treatments ended.
In addition to learning massage techniques to comfort Micki, Zartman left "Dave loves Micki" stickers throughout their home and on Micki's personal items. She said he frequently soothed her by making her laugh and taking her to see "her cows" at OSU's Dairy Department, which David formerly chaired.
"I just grasped this opportunity to conquer this and move on and continue with our life, and my husband was right there beside me," Micki Zartman said. "Every day he tried to find something new to surprise me.
"In July, we will have been married 50 years. I think I'm still so in love with this man because he just continues to amaze me with his sacrificial love."
•Josh Huffman of Pandora, Ohio, was honored as one of Stefanie's Champions for the care he gave to his wife, Laura, after she was diagnosed with advanced triple negative breast cancer.
"Thank you all for setting an example and continuing to inspire myself and my children and everyone else who wants to get involved in the fight against cancer," Chris Spielman said.