John Grindrod: An angler’s wife, remarkable resiliency

There is, of course, an anthology of jokes about fishermen and their wives. And, while some jokes diminish the importance of a wife relative to the importance of hauling in a nice small mouth bass, if you asked one of our area’s premier reservoir fishermen about his wife of 20 years, Steve Contini might just say if asked what the best catch of his life was, that would be his wife, Tina.

While Steve fishes, Tina goes about the business of putting in 50-hour work weeks, but, of course, the story doesn’t really start here when it comes to showing the type of woman my mother would have said had “pluck.”

Approximately 10 years ago, Tina was diagnosed with cancer shortly after taking her annual mammogram. As a mother of two, a daughter, Jade, and a son, Sebastian, Tina recalls her first thoughts following the diagnosis.

“Of course, I thought about Steve, but I also thought a great deal about my kids. Jade was still in her teens, and Sebastian was just grade-school age, and I surely needed to be there for them going forward.”

Tina was referred to The Stephanie Spielman Comprehensive Breast Center in Columbus, where it was determined that Tina’s cancer was unique. It was a very angry type carrying the name ductal carcinoma in situ. Following several consultations with the oncology team, it was determined the best chance of survival was a double mastectomy.

Following the surgery, an arduous recovery journey commenced. It would be a full 18 months before Tina could really see herself as more an advocate for others than a patient, in other words, someone who could help others overcome their own difficulties in addition to being there for her children full time. Additionally, there was the emotional healing of losing something that, in part, had always been a component in her gender’s self-esteem, in other words, there was a whole plateful of challenges.

As for her advice to those facing serious health setbacks, especially in their adult years when there are so many other responsibilities that must be met, Tina sees one imperative as the bedrock upon which everything else must be built.

“Don’t be afraid to seek the support and help you’re going to need. Listen, you’ll hear this so often, this ‘I-got-this’ self-reliant, almost defiant mantra from some. As a matter of fact, I was probably a lot like that before my diagnosis. However, I soon realized I was going to need a lot of support from my key people. And, of course, I really needed my Catholic faith.”

As for someone so instrumental in lending all sorts of support, well, that would be a certain someone who needed to lay his fishing rod down quite a bit.

Recalls Tina, “Steve had firsthand knowledge in caring for someone going through a difficult survey and recovery. Several years ago, he gave his dad a kidney and was so very important as a caretaker.”

The former Wapakoneta High School and Ohio State graduate initially worked in the healthcare field for 18 years before deciding well into her 40s to go in a totally new direction.

Tina went back to school at UNOH and, while still working full time as well as handling all the duties incumbent upon a wife and mother, earned her Master of Business Administration. Currently, Tina is using the knowledge gained as an account executive at CNI in Wapakoneta, a company which provides both services and support for online businesses.

Tina says she doesn’t have much time for hobbies, but with her new career path, CNI sponsors a lot of golf outings. She told me that Steve needs to put that fishing pole down and help her with her golf swing, which is something the son of one of this town’s legendary teaching pros, Bo Contini, can certainly do.

As for the future, when it comes to education, Tina may not be done pushing through her glass ceilings. She’s considering getting her PhD. She urges all in their adult years not to let either age nor health issues be excuses to abandon pursuing what they’re passionate about.

Says Tina Contini, “If you want it bad enough, see it, feel it, do it!”

John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at [email protected].