The in­domitable Steve Par­ton, so far

Dun­das man with can­cer says he’s liv­ing “on bor­rowed time” but doesn’t fear end of life

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - JEFF MA­HONEY jma­honey@thes­ 905-526-3306

Steve Par­ton is un­afraid of death. He tells me so and I be­lieve him. Oth­ers are not so brave. We’re afraid. For him. And so we hope, as love does, like chil­dren.

Which is not the way I ever thought I’d be cue­ing up some para­graphs on a guy I’ve known, on and off, al­most 20 years, fan­ning out scant feath­ers of se­lec­tive bi­og­ra­phy to sug­gest the whole plumage — of a life so far, as though it doesn’t have so far to go.

It well might. What fright­ens Steve isn’t the end of that life, his own, but the un­know­able on­go­ing-ness with­out him of the lives of oth­ers. His beloved chil­dren, his beloved wife Is­abel. But we’re get­ting ahead of our­selves. He’s here and he’s a fighter.

“To be hon­est I think I’ve got maybe a year,” Steve told me re­cently. “And yet some­how I still think I can beat this.”

He was di­ag­nosed 2013. Large can­cer­ous mass on his kid­ney.

“The doc­tor said I might not wake up (from surgery) so I should up­date my will, work on a bucket list,” Steve, 45, re­calls. “I don’t have a bucket list. I did jig­saw puz­zles with my kids (Blake, now 12, and Meghan, now 11). I’ve had a rich, full life. That was my list.”

He beat it then, with surgery, pot, laugh­ter, chemo, and a mix, as now, of con­ven­tional and natur­o­pathic treat­ment. But it metas­ta­sized. Is there an uglier word? It spread.

Steve would de­liver the pa­per as a boy to pay for music lessons. Learn­ing gui­tar was an act of wor­ship al­most. He’d see his teacher in the park and ex­ult, “He’s the one who showed me that Rush song.”

Music shot through Steve like a flam­ing ar­row. He played cease­lessly, got up at folk houses, tried his chops, fear­lessly, in the com­pany of more sea­soned mu­si­cians. But he was never one who needed to be pushed off the div­ing board or, for that mat­ter, the cliffs of Aca­pulco. He jumps. He trav­elled, formed bands. When he was liv­ing in Nanaimo, B.C., his band played music that Steve wrote with the Van­cou­ver Is­land Sym­phony Orches­tra.

In 1999, back in Dun­das, he opened Avalon Music. It f ared well, right away. He in­spires. Now it boats over 200 stu­dents. A ter­rific suc­cess and you have only to brush up against Steve to un­der­stand.

He’s a big, ro­bust guy, who’s now lost a lot of weight, with a full head of curly hair that’s now been thinned (but not that much) by

chemo. He’s a large, three-point-throw kind of per­son­al­ity with a whis­pery voice and deep-set eyes that flare like pul­sars when he smiles or makes a point. He’s the way you feel af­ter draw­ing a jack when you cut the deck in crib­bage. Ex­tra. He loves Rush. And The Bea­tles. And hu­mour.

For all the travel (Cal­i­for­nia, Mon­treal, B.C.) and bo­hemia, he didn’t try pot, un­til 2014.

“All other bets were off. At first maybe it was only a placebo but then the tu­mour ac­tu­ally shrunk,” says Steve, who used it legally. “Maybe pot played a part.”

But things turned again. Now most days are spent hus­band­ing the lit­tle en­ergy he has, to do as much as he can. “But I’m sur­rounded by love and I find joy ev­ery­where,” he says.

He’s had soul-sus­tain­ing sup­port — wife Is­abel, of course, mother Andie and He­len Bart­ley, the mother of a stu­dent who with a cou­ple of oth­ers kept the school go­ing when Steve first got sick. But also Rev. Rick Spies, St. Paul’s United Dun­das, and neigh­bours Cam and Sally Goede, who run over care pack­ages and would bake, spur of the mo­ment, when pot gave him emer­gency munchies.

Years ago, I played a duet with Steve, in public, and I was ter­ri­fied. My fin­gers would’ve frozen save for one lib­er­at­ing look from his con­fi­dent face. Un­afraid. He gave you the feel­ing you couldn’t f ail. May he know how much that means.

Now he’s writ­ten a book, “Can­cer Trip” — funny and blunt on the sub­ject of, among other things, death. Says Steve: “I’m liv­ing on bor­rowed time but my brain is rock­ing and rolling ... and I love it.” The book launch is Satur­day, 7 p.m., Dun­das Lit­tle The­atre.


Steve Par­ton 45, has been wrestling with can­cer since 2013. The Dun­das music store op­er­a­tor knows he doesn’t have much time left but is de­ter­mined to main­tain his creative spirit. He has writ­ten a book about his ex­pe­ri­ence with mor­tal­ity called “Can­cer Trip.”

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