Shuler is feisty, selfless, brave in the face of cancer
Honorary Bat Girl inspires others with optimistic spirit, refusal to give up
CINCINNATI -- Josie Shuler is nothing if not stubborn.
Twice, the 55-year-old Fairfield Township resident has been told by doctors that she only had months to live. Twice, she told them that idea didn't fly with her.
Shuler has spent the better part of the last 15 years fighting. She's battled through a heart attack, a stroke that paralyzed her left side and a rare blood disorder for which it took doctors four-and-a-half years to find a cure, and she's beaten cancer, only to have it come back again, again and again.
On Sunday, though, Shuler had a chance to enjoy herself. A self-described "huge Reds fan," she was selected as the club's 2013 Honorary Bat Girl for Mother's Day.
"This is, I think, the culmination of everything," Shuler said after stepping onto the field at Great American Ball Park. "It's not just being a Reds fan, but also to represent all the breast cancer patients that are fighting."
Originally diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2008, Shuler underwent chemotherapy and 45 radiation treatments before being deemed cancer-free the next May. In the fall of 2010, the cancer came back for the first time.
"They said there was no more cure for it, and I was given eight months to live," Shuler said. "But I didn't quit. I said, 'No, we're going to go downstairs, and we'll start the treatment.'"
In August 2012, the cancer had spread to her lungs, and doctors found a tumor in her brain the next month. Each time the cancer came back, Shuler said it gave her more power, and throughout the entire struggle, she thought of everyone but herself. She's volunteered with various groups, including Komen Cincinnati and the American Cancer Society, and the chemotherapy she currently receives at the University of Cincinnati Health Barrett Center is experimental.
"Some people have died on it," said Traci Clancy, Shuler's friend and fellow cancer survivor. "But her body is amazing and really receptive to medicine, so she lets UC do whatever to help herself and be there for her daughter and help other people. That's why everyone is so grateful to her."
Clancy and Shuler met while volunteering at Kings Island about two years ago. Accustomed to receiving frightened reactions from people when she told them she had stage three breast cancer, Clancy was taken aback the first time she met Shuler.
"She goes, 'Oh, I have stage four. The doctor told me I'm going to die in months, but I'm not going to listen to them,'" Clancy said. "I'm just like, 'Oh really?' I was kind of amazed by her."
Roughly two weeks after her mastectomy in 2009, Clancy was an Honorary Bat Girl herself for the Reds. She said the experience was "uplifting" and considering the Reds shrine in Shuler's basement, Clancy knew her friend would love it, so she nominated her.
With a beaming smile on her face, Shuler preached positivity on Sunday, and she said that the most important part of the day was that people going through a similar battle find hope through her story.
"I think it gives them more strength and courage," Shuler said. "Some people just quit, but I never quit. I kind of inspire them to just keep on going. Hopefully through me and the [chemotherapy] trial I'm going through with the breast cancer center, we'll find a cure."
Shuler's husband of 21 years, Gary, who was diagnosed with and defeated prostate cancer last year, said he's confident that time will come.
"It's working," Gary Shuler said. "We just got to keep going, keep raising the funds, and they're going to get it. They're going to get the cure, they are. We're almost there."
Jeremy Warnemuende is an associate reporter from MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.