McCOMB, Ohio - Duane Stateler didn't think twice in January when he opened the mail and found a nomination form from the James Cancer Hospital for the Stefanie's Champion Awards.
Mr. Stateler, 45, quietly filled out the form explaining how his wife, Margie, became his champion the moment she noticed a lump under his arm that turned out to be a malignant tumor the size of a toy football. His right shoulder blade had to be removed surgically.
“For me, I had to accept it and deal with it right away,” Mr. Stateler said. “But she not only had to accept it and deal with it, she also had to take care of things.”
“Things” included the family farm and livestock, a young son, and another on the way. The Statelers discovered the tumor in March, 1984; their second son, Brandon, was born that July.
In nothing short of champion form, Mrs. Stateler drove their 4-year-old son, Anthony, to a friend's house and herself to the hospital when her labor began. Her husband was in Columbus for a doctor's appointment that morning but was able to get home in time for Brandon's birth.
“That's the part that amazes the people most,” Mrs. Stateler said. “We were able to get through a lot of what we really needed to do on our own.”
Mrs. Stateler worked the ground, planted, ran the combine, and plowed their 650 acres. She helped with their 50 sows; some were ready to have a new batch of pigs, others were ready to sell.
“She was pregnant, and the odor was not so good,” Mr. Stateler said. “She sucked that up, I know.”
Mrs. Stateler said that at the time she didn't think about what had to be done. She just did it, though she admits they had some help on the farm.
“Duane's dad was always there,” she said. “At times I thought Duane should've nominated his father because he really shouldered a lot of the responsibility.”
In addition to helping her husband with those things he couldn't do, Mrs. Stateler pushed him to get back on his feet soon after his surgery - something he needed and appreciated. He was able to plant corn that spring.
Mr. Stateler has limited use of his right arm but has been cancer-free since his surgery. The experience changed their plans and their lives, he said, and made him appreciate his wife and sons more than ever.
Mrs. Stateler always planned to be a stay-at-home mom but got a full-time job shortly after their second son was born, in part because they needed the medical insurance. For the past 12 years, she has worked for the Hancock Park District, most recently as administrative manager.
Mr. Stateler wanted more than anything to hold onto the family farm northwest of Findlay. For added income, he began doing electrical work, as he put it, to support his farming hobby. “I don't know that we'd have been able to hold this together if Margie hadn't sacrificed by going to work,” he said.