Why I Fight: Dennis Honors His Wife
On Monday, December 16, 2013, only 10 days after our 38th wedding anniversary, I lost my beautiful wife Claire Rose to pancreatic cancer. I am still in shock. She was never sick a day in her life and she was the kind of woman who spent 45 minutes on the treadmill almost every morning.
That October we had just returned from a trip to Paris, and a day later, she had a stomach ache. While this was unusual for her, we just figured she possibly picked up some sort of virus on the plane. Still, two weeks later, something wasn’t right. I was worried, as it was so unlike her to feel unwell. I took her to the emergency room and we found out that night she had pancreatic cancer. We were able to work with a top-notch medical team but despite all our best efforts, she died in our arms, just two months after her diagnosis.
Losing Claire was so unexpected. She had just retired from 35 years of work. She had a wonderful spirit, a powerful moral compass, and a positive impact on all who met her. Her funeral attracted more than 800 people. She supported me and our two sons in all that we did and she was always smiling. From the day we first met, we fell in love right away. Together, we traveled the world. Thank goodness we never waited to go on these trips together. She was just a great woman. I was really, truly blessed to have a wife like this.
Since her passing, I kept asking myself how to keep her memory alive while dealing with this unimaginable grief. I didn’t have to look too far to find the answer. I have been a volunteer basketball coach for more than 50 years, and often involved in many charitable basketball tournaments. So I decided to use all my extensive contacts and experience in this area to focus my efforts on a 100-foul shot fundraiser to benefit The Lustgarten Foundation, which took place this past September. It could be done by anyone, anywhere and people could sponsor as much as they liked for each foul shot a player makes. I selected The Lustgarten Foundation as the beneficiary for my fundraiser because their research results are impressive as is the fact that 100 percent of the money donated goes to research. I just think this is a good organization.
I feel great about the results of this event. I had sent out more than 300 invitations to everyone I know in basketball: coaches, school districts, teachers, players and former players. I also had volunteers working on this event every day. All the hard work was worth it, as we had more than 200 people participate and raised more than $23,000, much more than our original goal. It is the kind of thing Claire would have loved, as she was very involved in giving back to the community.
Claire believed in her faith, family and friends. She was also a fighter. I have the same faith that this fundraiser will succeed in raising both money and awareness about the disease that took her life. I also know I must continue her fight with the help of others. God must have a plan for me to make a difference. I hope it includes helping to end pancreatic cancer.