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Published: Monday, 4/15/2013

Barbara Ann Stevens, 1937-2013

Oncology nurse who had cancer inspired others

BY JIM SIELICKI
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Editor's note: This version corrects the name of Ms. Steven's husband.

Barbara Ann Stevens, an oncology nurse who fought a 12-year battle with multiple myeloma, and after her diagnosis continued to work as a volunteer with cancer organizations, died Thursday. She was 75.

Ms. Stevens was a graduate of Central Catholic High School and a 1958 graduate of the Mercy School of Nursing.

Pamela Allen, her daughter, said Ms. Stevens began working for a surgical practice with the Toledo Clinic before being associated with a group of oncology doctors there for 25 years.

One of the doctors she worked with at the clinic, Howard Ritter, treated her for the cancer in her bone marrow, she said.

About six months after her diagnosis, she retired from the clinic and began volunteering with the Victory Center, the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, and with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s first connection program.

“She decided she was going to fight the disease and do everything she could to beat it,” Ms. Allen said.

Ms. Stevens underwent two stem-cell transplants, which allowed her to begin taking new therapies, she said.

She participated in cancer research studies as a patient and as a nurse.

As manager of the Toledo Clinic’s hematology and oncology department, she worked with cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and taught them how to deal with the fatigue that resulted.

In 1981, Ms. Stevens helped start the Toledo Area Oncology Nursing Society, part of a national group. The local chapter has about 85 members, said Christine Earnest, president of the local chapter.

“She was a real inspirational leader,” Ms. Earnest said. “She was someone who saw a need and took care of it.”

Ms. Stevens remained active in the group until recently and was willing to share her knowledge with other oncology nurses, Ms. Earnest said.

The society provides support and education to oncology nurses and an avenue to share information and treatment ideas, Ms. Earnest said.

After she left the clinic, she volunteered for more than 10 years for The Victory Center, a nonprofit organization that provides support to cancer patients and their families.

She served seven years on the agency’s medical advisory council. “She worked with them up to the last couple of months” before she died, her daughter said.

With the Leukemia Society, she helped new patients connect with others who have had the disease for a time and could offer insight into what to expect, Ms. Allen said.

She was active in St. Joseph Catholic Church in Sylvania and its Bible study group.

She kept in touch with her Mercy College classmates and each year would join them for a winter trip to Naples or St. Petersburg, Fla., to catch up on their friendships, said Janet Donahue, a Mercy College classmate.

Ms. Donahue said the Toledo group would stay with their Florida classmates.

“It was like a big slumber party,” she said

“She was just as sweet as could be,” Ms. Donahue said. “She always enjoyed being around friends.”

Ms. Stevens enjoyed flower gardening and expanding the size of her garden. She converted the front yard of her home into one flower bed, her daughter said, and added a pond in the back yard.

“She got a lot of enjoyment out of that. It was a little bit of therapy for her,” her daughter said.

Ms. Stevens was born on Sept. 11, 1937, to Patrick and Marian Hart in Toledo.

She married Richard Stevens in Toledo on June 18, 1960. He died on April 9, 1998.

Ms. Stevens is survived by daughters Ellen Eigel, Valerie Grondy, Pamela Allen, Jennifer Froelich, and Melissa Stevens; 11 grandchildren, and a brother, Paul Hart and a sister, Dorothy Radocy. A brother, Gerald Hart, preceded her in death.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 12 p.m. today at St. Joseph Catholic Church, Sylvania.

Reeb Funeral Home, Sylvania, handled the arrangements.

Memorials are suggested to The Victory Center, the Northwest Ohio Chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation or to St. Joseph Catholic Church.

Contact Jim Sielicki at: jsielicki@theblade.com or 419-724-6050.



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