The indomitable Steve Parton, so far
Dundas man with cancer says he’s living “on borrowed time” but doesn’t fear end of life
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.”