Most of the people reading this blog will also know my good friend Brian, and maybe also Brian's wife Cindy. I'm not sure how many of you might have met Cindy's family, including her brother Steve. I met Steve when I was out in Seattle last June, just a few days after he'd been diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). This is a hematologic illness which is quite uncommon in younger people (Steve was 34 at diagnosis), and often leads to acute leukemia.
If you had the opportunity to meet Steve, you would probably like him right away just like I did. Just spending a little time with him, you could sense that what you saw was what you got, and he really was as friendly and open and intelligent as he seemed. I think sometimes that the people in Seattle and the Northwest are different from people elsewhere. Not because they drink more coffee or get rained on more or stupid stuff like that; I think they tend to be more informed, more politically and technologically savvy, more independent, more open-minded, etc. And Steve always struck me as the perfect fit for Seattle. He worked for a tech firm, and could take better photos with his iPhone than I could with a digital camera, and seemed to have a real appreciation for the rare and wonderful things in life. He had many creative and interesting friends. He kept a well-written and very readable blog about his experiences with life and his treatment, including his allogeneic stem cell transplant a few months ago. I think I learned more about the cancer patient's perspective from Steve's blog than from my 2-year oncology fellowship. And I was looking forward to seeing him again along with other friends on my upcoming trip back to Seattle.
Steve seemed to recover well at first after his stem cell transplant, but his cell counts (including white blood cells) unexpectedly dropped about a week ago. His doctors were making plans for another stem cell infusion from the same donor when Steve became acutely ill just a couple days ago. When someone has an infection like pneumonia, and few white blood cells to fight off the infection, it can become a life-threatening situation quite rapidly. And tragically, Steve passed away this morning in the ICU at Swedish Hospital in Seattle.
I only saw Steve in person on a few occasions, including Brian and Cindy's wedding last fall, but he was so good-natured that he made an impression on you right away. The sadness I feel now is for his sister, and parents, and wife, and all his friends, and the grief they're feeling now. And I'm sad I won't be able to thank Steve for the things I learned from him, and the enjoyment of spending just a bit of time with him. Thanks, Steve - I'll miss you, too.