The Bulldog in Me: How Northeast Ohio Kept Me Alive So I Could Follow My Dreams

Northeast Ohio offers amazing opportunities for expansion.

In April of 2008, I was to begin a lengthy odyssey which would change my life. I was diagnosed with advanced stages of colon cancer and on several occasions during the ordeal, I nearly passed away. My life was spared by the dynamic healthcare that I have been given in Northeast Ohio. Now six years cancer-free, I have spent time re-creating a bucket list which clearly paints with loving strokes the wonderful opportunities and experiences that exist in our own backyards.

My personal triumphs over the past five years have been made possible by the collaboration of world-class physicians in the Canton and Cleveland areas. My Oncologist, Dr. James Schmotzer of Canton and my surgeons, David Linz of Canton and Michael Rosen of Cleveland, have taken pieces of a health puzzle which in many other situations may have seemed impossible to solve and have put me back together. I spent over two months on a ventilator, nine months in a hospital bed, and many more months in therapy and emerged from each of these thanks to the superior care that our area offers to each of us.

As I began to move forward on my road to recovery, I re-evaluated my life and my goals. I knew that I definitely wanted to continue my role as an educator at McKinley High School in Canton, Ohio. I was born a bulldog and my one and only teaching position has been here. I have taught English and have directed our Speech & Debate program for over twenty years. I did, however, want to expand.

Northeast Ohio offers amazing opportunities for expansion. When I was in high school, I was greatly involved in theater. College, teaching, and coaching soon began to take up all of my time….and until after my recovery form illness , I had not returned to any type of acting. After I began to heal, this all changed.


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I found a vibrant and dynamic arts community in Canton. Located in this community is the fantastic Second April Galerie, home of the Kathleen Howland Theater.  This gallery and theater provide an opportunity for many local artists and performers to demonstrate their enormous talents. It was here that I found the theater group known as Gilda Shedstecker Presents. This company which is headed by director Doug Tennant has been instrumental in bringing unique and very well-received productions to the area. Since stumbling upon this group in January of 2013, I have had the opportunity to perform in three productions and had the opportunity to play a lead in the most recent production. This return to the theater has brought me tremendous joy. It has renewed me.

There is so much joy to discover in this area! I am a tremendous sports fan, and teaching at the school which is the home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame game is amazing. My blood runs “Cleveland Brown” each fall and the Cleveland Indians are my favorite summertime escape.

Canton - Football Hall of Fame

I am the child of immigrants who chose a beautiful place to raise their family. My three siblings and I are all products of local universities and colleges. This is our home. This is the place that I cannot imagine ever leaving.

I don’t simply have favorite things about this area, but I rather I have favorite parts of virtually everything that our area has to offer. One would have thought that facing the illness like I did would motivate in me a desire to move on to another location. While I certainly have enjoyed traveling to various parts of our nation and the world, there is only one place to which I wish to come home, and that is Canton, Ohio.

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