Chris Stadelman has a sense of humor that reveals his zest for life and an outgoing personality that draws people to him.
At 44, he is also quite accomplished with a background in newspapers as well as public relations. On May 16, he celebrated a one-year anniversary as director of communications for Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. He lives in South Charleston with wife, Kelly, and their two labradors, Bettis and Crosby.
Because he appears to be physically fit, one would never guess that he fights an ongoing battle with cancer.
“I’m going to run the disease,” he said. “I am not going to let it run me. I’ve always been a little stubborn.”
Stadelman is this year’s honorary chairman of “Run for Your Life,” a five-mile run or two-and-a-half mile walk geared to raise awareness of colorectal cancer as well as provide education and funding for screenings. The event is organized by the Charleston Area Medical Center Foundation.
Stadelman has not previously discussed his illness publicly. However, he decided to do so in order to encourage screenings, raise funds for those unable to afford testing, and to honor his friend, the late Jody Jividen who died in August 9, 2002, of complications of colorectal cancer. Jividen had a 21-year sports writing career at the Charleston Daily Mail. He was an award-winning columnist, well-known chili cook, and avid distance runner.
Jividen died at age 44.
While some folks may have insurance that covers a colonoscopy for those over age 50, screenings may be needed much sooner to rule out or confirm a diagnosis of colorectal cancer.
“As Jody and I would attest, it doesn’t always wait until 50,” Stadelman said. “People need to pay attention to their bodies, even if they are under 50. Nobody likes a colonoscopy. They are not fun but this is very curable if detected early on.”
Stadelman concedes that he probably should have been tested sooner than he was. Last August, he went to see a family physician after experiencing bleeding. He was scheduled for a colonoscopy the following week when a mass was discovered. He went to Sloan Kettering in New York for further testing.
“It had already metastasized to the liver, lung and stomach lining,” he said. “So surgery was not an option.”
It was determined that chemotherapy must begin as soon as possible. Treatments began in September under the care of Dr. Steven Jubelirer, who treated Stadelman in 1991 for Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a condition totally unrelated to the current cancer.
Stadelman recently completed his 16th round of chemotherapy. On alternating weeks, he has intravenous chemo at the new CAMC Cancer Center. He is there as an in-patient for about five hours each visit. After that he is hooked to a portable 46-hour infusion system that he dubs a “man purse.” The pack is concealed beneath a jacket when he goes to work.
Fighting fatigue can be frustrating but he exercises as much as possible. Friends, who have helped with chores like cutting grass, encourage him to save energy for walks with his wife.
Recent blood work has been in the normal range with no signs of growing tumors.
“It is stage four,” he said. “A cure is not likely but they can manage it. They’ve done that. A Sloan Kettering oncologist said she would do nothing different than what Dr. Jubelirer is doing. That says a lot about local treatment.”
Stadelman hopes his story will make a difference in the lives of others. He wants people to pay attention to their bodies, have early testing, and be aware of the excellent medical care in the area.
Throughout his ordeal, he had one breakdown where he considered skipping treatment. However, once he arrived at the CAMC Cancer Center and talked with the staff his spirits lifted.
“They work to make it as acceptable and tolerable as they can,” he said.
He hasn’t missed a day’s work since his diagnosis and loves being with co-workers where he focuses on the job and not the cancer.
When he is off duty, he rests on bad days and enjoys the good ones when he and Kelly can attend a ball game or a concert.
“We try to find a way to enjoy life,” he said. “We focus on weeks and months, not years. The long term can be depressing. We survive the bad times and have fun during the good times. There are breakthroughs all the time. Oncologists love to share their work. No matter where the breakthrough is, word spreads quickly.”
Stadelman nurtures a positive outlook with a sense of humor, a good attitude, and prayer.
“We go to St. Marks United Methodist and I am on the prayer list at several churches,” he said. “There is no other explanation for how well the treatment has gone. I feel pretty good most of the time.”
He again emphasized that colon cancer is highly treatable when detected early. West Virginia has the highest mortality rate from colon cancer and the lowest screening rate in the country. Within the last year, 1,391 screening colonoscopies were performed at CAMC and 144 patients were diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Those who need financial assistance for testing may call 304-388-8380 for more information.
In conjunction with the Smoke on the Water Chili Cook-off, Run for Your Life is an official FestivALL event on June 20. The race begins 8 a.m. at Haddad Riverfront Park and takes runners through the city of Charleston, up through Spring Hill Cemetery and back to Kanawha Boulevard to enjoy the festivities around the chili cook-off and FestivALL. A shorter route will be outlined for walkers.
In 2014, more than 270 participants age 8 to 78 raised over $26,000 that was used within the community to provide education and screening measures for colorectal cancer.
Registration fee is $20 before June 14 and $25 after that date. Registration packet pick up will be 3 to 7 p.m. June 19 at the CAMC Cancer Center parking lot, 3415 MacCorkle Ave. S.E. in Charleston; and on race day at Haddad Riverfront Park from 7 to 8 a.m.
Contact writer Charlotte Ferrell Smith at email@example.com or 304-348-1246.