Steven: The name behind our mission

Steven Daniel Vanover was diagnosed with desmoplastic small round cell tumors (DSRCT), a rare and aggressive form of sarcoma, in December 2013 at the age of 23. DSRCT is a soft tissue cancer that typically forms in the abdomen or pelvis of young adults. He was a patient of Norton Cancer Institute in Louisville, Kentucky where he was treated with chemotherapy, music therapy and more. He also saw physicians at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, a hospital that is leading the way in sarcoma research and treatment. He battled cancer for nearly 15 months, undergoing infections and setbacks, and eventually facing a lack of treatment options.

But this is not Steven’s story.

His story lies in his optimistic attitude in the face of life-altering news, and his courage to make every day count.

Steven had just graduated from the University of Louisville J.B. Speed School of Engineering with a Masters in Mechanical Engineering, and had started his career at Universal Woods in Louisville as a New Product Developer Engineer just months before his cancer diagnosis. He was a talented musician and vocalist, playing multiple instruments in his band. He was also the Vice President of the alumni association for his fraternity, Pi Kappa Alpha.

After learning of his diagnosis, Steven was determined not to let cancer affect the way he lived his life. Tenacious as ever, Steven spent his 15-month battle the same way he had spent his 23 years—having fun with friends and family, working hard and most importantly, never letting a day go by without laughter. He had a rare gift of enjoying the simple things in life, and making others feel important and loved.

During treatments, Steven always had a smile on his face, told jokes, played music, befriended hospital staff and lifted the spirits of those around him. Even in the days following treatment, though difficult, he would spend time laughing and having fun with friends and family.

He followed his dreams and made sure to check a couple of items on his bucket list. First and foremost, he proposed to his girlfriend of five years, Lauren, on the boat dock where they met. He went to his favorite lake where he could fish and swim. He bought a motorcycle, went golfing, cheered on his favorite team—the Louisville Cardinals—and stayed active. He even held a concert on the rooftop of the hospital and completed wood working projects. He never held himself back from living each day to its fullest and doing the activities he loved.

His legacy lies in a lifetime of memories and achievements, but even in his final months, dealing with complications, setbacks and pain, Steven left his mark by uplifting everyone around him and filling them with hope. That was his true gift: his courage, his positivity and his fight during dark times. All of this was centered around his faith in God. This is what has inspired us, his friends and family, to establish this fund.

We have created the Steven Vanover Foundation to preserve the memory of someone who truly embodied what it means to live and love fiercely, and to raise money to support the cutting edge research that could bring about better treatment options and a cure for sarcoma.

Let’s see more smiles, more singing, more silliness and more survivors.