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Living Intentionally and Finding a Cure for Cancer

August 31, 2011

Steve Steffan focused on the things he could control in life and let go of the things he could not. This outlook brought him through good and bad times. It also helps his family persevere in his absence.

“People listened to Steve because he spoke and lived with intention,” his wife Sharon says.

For example, one day he heard that there was no bus driver willing to cover the route to school for girls in residence at a local children’s home. So that day, Steve decided to become a part-time bus driver.

“For him it was simple. The girls needed a place to live and they needed a way to get to school. He could drive, and so he took the route,” Sharon says. “He was happy to get them safely to school each day.”

When Steve was diagnosed with kidney cancer in June 2010, his focus on what he could control did not waiver. Although he lived a few hours outside of St. Louis, he chose to receive his care from the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine. Steve knew that Siteman, the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center within a 240-mile radius of St. Louis, would give him the best possible care.

“I remember the call we got from the team at Siteman,” Sharon says. “We were relieved that they were ready to help us immediately.”

The Siteman team listened to Steve’s individual needs and was trained to treat his specific disease. “They made us feel like we were all in this together,” Sharon says.

Devastatingly, Steve’s cancer had spread to his lungs before his diagnosis, and his battle lasted just seven months. During that time, he developed a close bond with his medical oncologist, Steven Sorscher, MD.

“Dr. Sorscher really gave it his all,” Sharon says. “When Steve died, Dr. Sorscher called to check on me and the kids, Shayna, Elyse and Samuel. He talked about Steve and how he missed their visits.”

Sharon memorialized her husband by creating the Steve Steffan Fund for Kidney Cancer Research at The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital. The fund, created in honor of Dr. Sorscher, supports decoding of the kidney cancer genome, which will help the Siteman team study how cancer changes specific cells. With this information, they can tailor their treatment most effectively to each patient’s cancer.

“When Steve was going through treatment, the doctors knew enough to know that they do not yet know enough. They are chomping at the bit to get in there and find a cure,” Sharon says. “Supporting this research is pulling our family together and keeping Steve’s spirit alive.”

Gifts made to the fund in memory of Steve by community members came with handwritten notes to Sharon–some remembering him as a youngster, the oldest brother of eight kids and an altar boy.

“I wasn’t in his life then, so it was fun to hear,” Sharon says. “It means so much to have everyone doing what they can to help.

To give to The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital’s Steve Steffan Fund for Kidney Cancer Research (#7436), click “Give Now”.
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