In 1998, after she learned she had breast cancer, Stefanie Spielman, the wife of then NFL linebacker Chris, began writing her thoughts in a journal. She showed several entries to SI later that year, including one from July 19: "I will beat this thing. I have to. [Children] Maddy and Noah are so much motivation. I will do anything for them. [For] Chris too."
Ultimately the disease proved impossible to beat; Stefanie died at home last Thursday at age 42. But she made the most of her 11-year fight, embracing the spotlight she found herself in when Chris left the Bills for the 1998 season—in the prime of his career—to help take care of her. (In a show of solidarity he also shaved his head when Stefanie lost her hair. "I would have considered myself a fraud if I didn't," he told SI at the time.) Stefanie formed a support group for young victims and held an annual event honoring breast-cancer survivors, and through her foundation the Spielmans raised $6 million for breast-cancer research at their alma mater, Ohio State. The Buckeyes wore stickers on their helmets with the letters SS and a pink buckeye leaf for last Saturday's win over Michigan. "We have lost a leader in the fight against cancer," Lance Armstrong said. "Stefanie was a living example of courage and strength to everyone around her."