Fighting Cancer: Honoring Julie Schaffner

Julie Wine Schaffner graced the cover of our January 2010 magazine as an inspiringly resilient woman because of the grace and strength with which she fought late-stage ovarian cancer.

She was blessed with the compassion, common sense and humanity of a registered nurse, the focus, intellect and drive of an MBA, the southern drawl and humor of a girl raised in the back country hills of Virginia, and the self-confidence, leadership and sophistication of a woman running an award-winning institution.

Schaffner rarely missed a day of work as the Chief Operating Officer of Advocate Lutheran General Hospital. She just took her meetings or worked on her laptop in the chemotherapy department instead of her office, as the IV dripped what she hoped would be the magic elixir to halt the cancer’s progress. She still found the time and strength to be lovingly present to her three children and husband, Tom. She even maintained her morning walks, which included a stop at Starbucks.

Schaffner just kept looking and acting like the amazing woman her family, friends (including me) and employees had always known. So we were stunned when the doctor told her she likely had only a few weeks to live in November and in disbelief when she entered hospice after Christmas. We still expect to see and laugh with her again, even though she died December 31.

Ovarian cancer is silent, stealthy and much, much too deadly. Usually diagnosed in stage 3 or 4 (late stage), treatment rarely helps and the cancer quickly explodes elsewhere. Despite the deadly prognosis, there is not the same strong movement to raise awareness of and research funds for ovarian cancer as there is for breast cancer.

But it’s time for this to change. Her friends and family launched a Julie Wine Schaffner Ovarian Cancer Fund at the Ovarian Research Foundation. We welcome your donations here. Also, and perhaps more importantly, we welcome your participation in other ways, with stories, suggestions, leads, resources and links about ovarian cancer. They will help us grow an online Guide To Fighting Ovarian Cancer in honor of Schaffner and too many other fabulous females who have fought and lost a similar battle.