Sunday, June 13, 2004

Ellen Mae Steele showed strength in cancer battle


Nurse taught public about illness

By Nicole Hamilton
The Cincinnati Enquirer

WESTWOOD - Ellen Mae Steele didn't let a terminal illness stop her from dancing her way across the Atlantic Ocean and back.

Diagnosed with liver cancer in 1999, she was told she had only six months to live. Five years later, the dance lover was taking cruises to Europe and Russia, skiing in Switzerland and touring China.

When she was in town, she was a regular at Hyde Park Methodist Church's Friday night dances and on the slopes of Perfect North.

"She was resilient and very gallant in the face of the disease," said her son, Harold Blaine Steele of Westford, Mass., "She was a gracious, selfless person who put the needs of others before her own."

Ms. Steele died Thursday at her son's Loveland home more than five years after her cancer diagnosis. The Westwood resident was 73.

Ms. Steele, raised in New Brighton, Pa., earned a liberal arts degree from Muskingum College in New Concord.She later earned a bachelor's degree in nursing.from Case Western University in Cleveland.

She lived in New Knoxville for several years, where she raised her four sons.

In 1971, Ms. Steele received a master's degree in education from Miami University, and a year later accepted a position as the first school nurse in St. Mary's school system.

About 10 years later, she moved to Westwood and eventually began working as a public health nurse for the Cincinnati Health Department, a position she held until her retirement in 1995.

Ms. Steele was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in December 1998, but soon after, doctors found it had spread to her liver.

"She drew strength from her faith and confidence in knowing that people all over the world were praying for her," said her son, William of Charlotte, N.C.

And she turned the news into a chance to educate others about colorectal cancer.

"She joined Toastmasters and became a passionate speaker for educating the public regarding colorectal cancer. She appeared on Channel 12 in a health awareness segment, and insisted on each of her four sons getting colonoscopies," her son Harold said. "Because of her efforts, Governor Taft declared a colon cancer awareness day."

"Her gift of research is what helped her in her battle with cancer. Five-and-a-half years came to her because she researched and knew of the up-to-date treatments. Her doctor would tell other patients, 'If you want to beat cancer, talk to Ms. Steele,' " said her daughter-in-law, Patty Steele of Loveland.

Besides her sons, Harold and William, other survivors include sons Thomas Allen of Loveland and Richard Wayne of Columbus, and 15 grandchildren.

Visitation will be 3-5 p.m. today at Jon Deitloff Funeral Centre, 4389 Spring Grove Ave., Winton Place.

Service will be at 10 a.m. Monday at the funeral home. Burial will be in Spring Grove Cemetery.

Memorials can be made to American Cancer Society, 2808 Reading Road, Cincinnati 45206, or Hospice of Cincinnati, 4310 Cooper Road, Cincinnati 45242.

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E-mail: nhamilton@enquirer.com




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