We passed too often in the night of this disease, Pat Steer and I.
We made plans that sometimes turned out too hard to keep.
One of our plans was to get together at the Creekside, to talk books and dogs, but she got sicker, and I was suddenly very sick. We planned for phone calls that fell through and for my driving over for sit-down talks at her condo that I never had enough time for.
I wanted to have her tell me how to to cope with a disease that neither of us wanted.
She lived with stage IV rectal cancer for 8 years. After five years of early stage colon cancer, my cancer has returned in an unexpected way, and I desperately want some of those eight years. What a special gift that would be.
The best plan of all was a get together for a Happy Hour with friends from all her many interests — dog training, foodies, greyhound rescue. She described the rules for happily enjoying the time: “The rule of happy hour is that everyone must leave with at least one thing that is “free to good home.”
How much I looked forward to a piece of Pat to remember. But, as things went that Friday afternoon, I was on my way home from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) having got snared in an additional, but unplanned, CT scan instead of deciding which of Pat’s eclectic collection items I would add to my own pile of nice stuff that needed a home. No Happy Hour!
So many of our meetings took place over the internet, via the ACOR Colon Discussion List, or Facebook or Twitter. The information she offered was always very practical. She knew how to find a shared place to stay in Manhattan that saved significant money during cancer treatment at MSKCC or how to develop patience trying to regain your old self after a liver resection.
“So…after liver resection, you can slow down and enjoy the ride, or fret in the backseat whining “are we there yet?” I finally discovered that it’s a heckuva a lot more fulfilling to develop the patience to enjoy the ride…’cause wondering if you’re there yet ain’t gonna get you back to normal any faster, and it wastes energy.”
We shared a member of Congress and visits to our Representative and two Senators. She was much stronger and braver than I was in continuing Calling on Congress. Even though her health was failing, she made it this year. I didn’t. Fatigue was already pushing back hard at me.
Pat understood how difficult the losses that cancer brings:
- Wanting to adopt a dog in distress and not having the energy or strength.
- Wanting to write, keep our blogging up, share what we were learning despite tingling fingers that miss the right computer keys.
- Wanting to sit down with friends to just talk over coffee.
- Having dinner at some special new place.
We shared living in this beautiful Central New York landscape, overlooking the lakes that surround us. We shared a love of dogs, particularly those rescued animals who needed an extra understanding of their own losses, We shared a deep love of writing.
But too often we didn’t share time together, and for that I am deeply grieved.
After eight years fighting back at colorectal cancer, Pat died on July 17, 2012 at Crouse Hospital in Syracuse, NY.
I was even too tired and in too much pain to attend her funeral service on July 21 at St. Joseph’s Church in Camillus. I’m so sorry not to have been there Pat.
You can read more about her struggle at the end of her life when there was No More Room in the Bucket.
Generously, Pat asked that in lieu of flowers gifts be made to Fight Colorectal Cancer so we can continue our work together getting Congress to move on policies important to people living with colon and rectal cancer — or those who won’t get it because of funding and outreach for prevention. We will also be able to have the Answer Line providing solid evidence-based answers to patient and caregiver questions. And Fight Colorectal Cancer staff and volunteers will speak up for the needs of patients where plans for research are being made.
This is one commitment to Pat Steer I don’t intend to forget. She was a special woman and a special friend.
Research saves lives. Pat knew it and so do I.