FAIRFIELD — Steve Strouse has beaten the odds before. He was a methamphetamine addict who was jobless and homeless.
He also kicked the smoking habit, after about two decades of smoking a half-pack to a pack a day.
Just before Thanksgiving, Strouse, 55, was diagnosed with stage 4 bladder cancer. He’s already undergone radiation and chemotherapy treatments. In mid-January, he begins another round of treatment – this time with two types of drugs.
“We decided we would approach each day as another day to live,” said his wife, Lauren Strouse.
“It’s made me more grateful for the life I have,” he said.
There are no options other than fighting, said the 55-year-old. Doctors, he said, have given him a year to a year-and-a-half to live.
Determination is the key. That’s what helped him kick his drug habit.
“I had no desire to continue living on the streets,” he said.
About 15 years ago, a friend dropped him off at the homeless shelter day center. Strouse started to walk away.
“I didn’t know where I would go from there. The only other thing was to take my life and I didn’t want to do that,” he said.
He said a voice told him he had to go inside. He did and even ended up working at the center and meeting his wife there.
While it was strongly encouraged he attend support meetings, Strouse said the atmosphere at the meetings made him want to use more. It wasn’t easy, Lauren Strouse said.
“There were many challenges those first years together,” she said. “We went through some emotional stuff. It required a lot of patience.”
Steve Strouse admitted to dealing with emotional anguish for several years.
The couple met in 1999 and wed in 2003.
Earlier this year, he began suffering leg and back pain. The first course of treatment was centered on an infection. When things didn’t improve, he was given an X-ray, then an MRI.
“It looked like something had taken a bite out of his pelvic bone,” Lauren Strouse said.
A co-worker had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in September and was given three weeks to live. She died within a month.
“I can’t imagine how someone can be told that,” Strouse said.
A few months later, he was in a very similar situation.
“I’m not going to give up. I want to be a fighter. I want to live longer,” he said.
The couple is also grounded in reality. They have started to take care of things that need to be in place in place if he dies.
The challenge isn’t so much about beating the odds and surviving a terminal illness, he said. It’s more about being able to actually live despite knowing you have a terminal illness.
Steve Strouse said he draws his strength from God, believing that as long as he is here, God will enable him to get through the challenges.
Lauren Strouse finds solace in spirituality.
“I don’t feel like this is all there is,” she said of a physical existence.
She also looks at it as a learning experience.
“God has us on a crash course in soul development,” she said.
Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amaginnisdr.