My Daddy

May 24, 2015  •  27 Comments

Dr. Joe Steven, Jr

October 11, 1950 - May 22, 2015

Our Journey

My dad passed away Friday May 22, 2015 after a long battle with cancer. Exactly one year prior, he had to have his bladder removed due to an aggressive tumor. Luckily, they were able to reconstruct a new bladder. Then in October 2014, the cancer came back. My dad began his fight with stage IV cancer at that moment. After his first 4 treatments with chemo and a VERY strict diet and lifestyle change (led by yours truly), the tumors were almost gone! (Two of the most helpful books were "A Definitive Guide to Cancer" and "How to Prevent and Treat Cancer with Natural Medicine.") When we heard that news, it truly was the happiest, most victorious day of my life. We all cried tears of joy at the office the moment we heard. My dad told me I saved his life ...... as we cried together for the first time ever. I will never forget that moment.

So of course, we continued the same chemo regimen. As is common with traditional cancer therapies, he started losing weight because he lost his appetite as a side effect of his treatment. Therefore we started letting him eat just whatever sounded good to him. After all, everything was working so we had a little wiggle room, right? 

About two weeks later, his back started hurting. We were told that it was probably arthritis or the fact that he had lost some muscle mass. After the next 4 chemo treatments, the back pain got so bad that we did another scan. {Enter one of the worst days of my life.} The tumor had done a complete reversal and was bigger now then it was when we began. Feeling completely defeated, we rushed to MD Anderson.

Unfortunately, after just one treatment with the strongest chemo regimen that MD Anderson had to offer, they could tell by his blood work that it was not working. We knew at this point that there was no cure and he had months left. We decided to do radiation to help with the back pain and bleeding that the tumor was causing. Although this was not a cure, we hoped it could buy us a few more months if successful. The radiation absolutely did its job by shrinking the main tumor, however, he ended up with a colon infection that took him down for weeks making him weaker than ever. At this point around the end of March 2015, we heard for the first time that the cancer had spread to his liver and he had less then a month left. 

The End

The months of April and May have been the most invaluable blessings to our family. Yes we had many irritating moments with each other, as my mom, sister and I were gripping to anything we could reach, and my dad was most certainly not the easiest of patients. Getting him to eat was absolutely the biggest challenge we encountered throughout the process, and his siblings and girls at the office can account for that too! It's hard to know what a person dying of cancer is going through, but no one was giving up just yet. And in fact, 2-4 weeks turned into 8 weeks. We did everything in our own power, which unfortunately was trumped by the power of the cancer. With cancer, you get to say and do everything you need, leaving that "no regret" feeling that is often not an option when it comes to death. In that, cancer has an odd way of blessing families. 

The Person, Joe

I joined my dad as a dentist at Riverside Dental back in 2007 and was able to learn his way of practicing dentistry. In fact, he had the pleasure of teaching "his way" to thousands and thousands of dentists around the country for 30+ years. As his obituary explains, he was a nationally recognized lecturer and consultant through his dental company KISCO, whose goal was to make others in the profession more efficient and successful. He believed that one could be a successful dentist while doing "bread and butter" dentistry as he called it. He was known as a leader of the "silent majority." He taught that if you treat your patients like family, as if every one of them were truly important, then you will be successful. His favorite book, by which he lived his life, is Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Influence People". A hard copy remains with him today in his resting place. 

The outpouring of stories about my dad from other dentists and how he personally helped their careers, has been wonderfully overwhelming.  Click here to read just a few of the many comments that have come my way about my incredible dad. Check out this video from a lecture room full of his dental "fans" in Destin, FL this year (the first one he wasn't able to attend in years). 

I always knew that people loved him and appreciated what a funny and kind guy he was. But it wasn't until he passed that I realized the immense effect he had on so many people's lives. His staff at the office adored him and many had been with him for 15, 20, 25, or 30 years! He believed that his own success was because of his wonderful staff of loyal women throughout the years. Going through this process has solidified the relationships I have with these women, as I see the loyalty and love they have had for their boss and friend, which is often rare. I now have some pretty big shoes to fill. And they WILL be filled in honor of my great father.

What I Learned

Pick the right doctor. I have so much more respect for our oncologist because he was open to our ideas along the way. He never acted as if his word was gold, even though my dad thought it was. He was as caring as anyone can be. We were not just a statistic to him. 

Having said that, in the busy world of hospitals/doctors/nurses, no one will look after you like YOU. It is our own responsibility to take care of ourselves. If something doesn't seem right, it probably isn't. 

At the start of our journey, I began learning from the brilliant Dr. Bernie Siegel about all the different aspects that go into treating illness. One of the most inspiring books I have ever read is his "Love, Medicine and Miracles." What I learned from him that I can pass on is that the motivation of the patient to be proactive is crucial for survival of stage IV cancer. You canNOT wait for someone else to heal you. It starts within. And I believe it is possible. Bernie Siegel gave me that gift. The glass is still half full here. 

My Healing

The one thing I wish I had done was to really photograph him at the end, especially with my girls. However, for whatever reason, the timing wasn't right and it didn't happen. Perhaps this is why I chose to make a blog about him. I will always be able to add to it and come to it when I feel the need. There were some beautiful, heartfelt speeches and eulogies written and read at my dad's services. Here are the ones from his rosary service, by his sister Rene Brand and by his best friend Dr. Mark Troilo, who will continue lecturing on his own through KISCO. My husband, John Rupp, gave a very touching speech at his funeral that had the whole place in tears. Here is his. At the meal after his services, this letter was read, which was written by an old friend of his Brad LaFever that touches on every wonderful aspect about my dad. As one of my favorite cards reads, "There are some who bring a light so great to the world that even after they have gone, the light remains." I am so proud to call him my dad, boss, and mentor. Here is the video I made to honor his great life, played to some of his favorite songs. My precious Daddy....


Norbert Bednar(non-registered)
I am glad to read this article.
Mike Boyer(non-registered)
i am so sorry to hear of your Fathers passing. I was fortunate to have attended several of his classes, got many things from Kisco, and subscribed to his Practice Building CD's. He a pleasure to listen to, always friendly and always came across as "the average guy"-though he was far from average. I can see that his family was "far from average" also. Please know that I have tears in my eyes writing this but thankfulness in my heart that for the small level of contact that I had with him. He will be remembered
James Colbert, D.D.S.(non-registered)
I just saw in the latest issue of Dentaltown that your dad passed away. I had the pleasure of attending one of his seminars over 20 years ago and was impressed with his knowledge of and enthusiasm for dentistry. I talked to him for a short time afterward and it was obvious he believed in what he talked about. He was a great person. I will keep you and your family in my prayers.
Michael Gulizio(non-registered)
Hi Jasmin,

I came across the tribute to your dad in Dental Town. My mother recently passed away from bladder cancer as well--the sequence of events that your dad went through happened almost exactly as they did for my mom. Your story really touched me--the same thoughts and feelings you went through were exactly what I went through when my mom was sick. Thank you for sharing those feelings--it really made me remember that I wasn't alone at that point in time in my life in which I felt so vulnerable.
Jonathan Campbell, DDS(non-registered)
My most sincere condolences to you and your family. I too had the great blessing of practicing dentistry with my dad for 15 years. He died at age 65 from myxoid sarcoma that had metastasized to his lungs. What a wonderful tribute to your dad. My heart goes out to you. I learned of your dad's passing on DentalTown. I'm praying and rooting for you.

-Jon Campbell, Salt Lake City, UT
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