Community rallies to help Mattituck businessman fight aggressive cancer

02/13/2013 8:00 AM |

It was during a trip to the Bahamas in November 2011 that Steve Rosin, owner of QC Electric Inc. in Mattituck, realized he wasn’t feeling well.

He was out on the water, the place he enjoys most, spending time with the people he enjoys most, his family. While teaching his daughter to fish — a passion he developed as a child while fishing Peconic Bay with his grandfather — he felt a shortness of breath and sensed a fever.

He thought he was coming down with bronchitis. But as the family vacation went on, his symptoms progressed. Upon arriving back in New York, Mr. Rosin, now 54, went directly to St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson, explained his sister, Linda Kjerulf.

Doctors first thought he had an embolism, a blockage of the main artery from the lung. But within two days they realized Mr. Rosin had a pulmonary arterial sarcoma, a rare malignant tumor in his pulmonary artery. The cancer has since spread from the artery to his lungs and brain. And his relatives and friends have since been rallying to support him in his uphill battle to survive.

“It has been a year now that he’s been fighting the fight,” said Mr. Rosin’s wife, Aileen. “He does the best he can every day.”

To help with family finances, Ms. Rosin has taken on extra hours and duties at her job as a Mattituck school bus driver, and family and friends have planned a fundraiser for Saturday, March 9, at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Cutchogue. The event had been scheduled for last Saturday, but was postponed due to the storm.

“The whole thing is kind of uncomfortable and embarrassing,” Ms. Rosin said. “But you do whatever you can.”

As a member of the Mattituck-Cutchogue Parent Teacher Association, Ms. Rosin said she has enjoyed planning fundraisers for others, but being on the opposite side of things has helped her realize how much the support really means.

”I feel now I know even better how to help people in need,” said Ms. Rosin. “It is just a constant battle fighting back. He is like the bionic man, he keeps coming back.”

In the past 14 months, Mr. Rosin has undergone two open heart and two brain surgeries, and  a portion of his lung has been removed. He’s also had what’s known as gamma knife surgery — pin-pointed radiation to treat brain tumors — and was scheduled to undergo another gamma knife surgery Tuesday morning.

“It was instant relief,” Mr. Rosin said, describing his first brain surgery.

Before that surgery, the fast-moving cancer had caused him to lose the use of his right arm. After surgery, he was walking around the hospital with his arms up and waving, Ms. Rosin said — one of many small victories for the family.

With his wife and daughter, a 14-year-old Mattituck High School student, cuddled on a nearby couch Monday night at their Mattituck home, Mr. Rosin said his outlook on life hasn’t changed during the past 14 months, but he values his time quite differently.

Mr. Rosin and his daughter “are a lot alike,” said Ms. Kjerulf. “They love nature, they love exploring, they love the water. It’s kind of their core connection,” she said. “She also has her father’s sarcasm.”

Mr. Rosin is known around town for bringing a smile to people’s faces, whether it’s at Wendy’s Deli in Mattituck or shopping at REVCO electrical supply in Southold.

“He’s always been a happy-go-lucky guy,” said Wendy Zuhoski, owner of Wendy’s Deli. “He’s always friendly and always chipper in the morning.”

“Steve does wonderful work and is well respected by everybody in the industry,” said Lorraine O’Fee, a lighting salesperson at REVCO.

“He’s a man in his van, like a lot of guys around here,” said Ms. Rosin.

But his cancer often keeps him from working, limiting the family’s income as his medical expenses rise.

“He does the best he can every day,” Ms. Rosin said. “If he can only work a half-day, or even two hours, he tries to get out there.”

Mr. Rosin said he credits one of his workers, Tony, with keeping his business running.

Along with the surgeries, Mr. Rosin has participated in a clinical trial using chemotherapy and is also currently on week two of a six-week course of radiation. With the help of three close friends, Mr. Rosin makes the 50-minute trip to Stony Brook University hospital every day for 15 minutes of radiation.

“It’s breathtaking to see someone like him,” said Matt Kar, who’s been a friend since both were 12. “He still smiles and laughs and teases me the whole way there.”

Mr. Rosin is also trying a holistic approach, taking a nutritional supplement, a fermented soy beverage called Haelan 951. The beverage costs the family $60 a day and smells about as good as it tastes — “terrible,” said his wife.

“I’m in it to win it,” Mr. Rosin said.

“I’ve met every one of his surgeons and specialists,” said Larry Simms, who has been dubbed Mr. Rosin’s honorary brother. “Without fail they are astonished at how committed he is and how brave he is. How quickly he heals and just his level of courage,” Mr. Simms said.

Mr. Rosin graduated from high school in Floral Park, then studied engineering at Suffolk County Community College. After a short time there, he joined the U.S. Navy, serving seven years. He then got his electrician’s license and started QC Electric, which he has owned for 25 years.

He had moved to the North Fork in 1976, after visiting the area during his childhood summers.

“All the stuff I love to do is here,” he said. “You can’t beat the water.”

In his free time, he enjoyed surfing in Montauk or windsurfing on Peconic Bay, but his true passion is fishing.

“He was born with a fishing pole in his hand,” said Ms. Kjerulf.

Shortly after starting his business, Mr. Rosin was sailing in the popular Wednesday night races around Robins Island. It was his future wife’s only night off, and she was also racing with a few girlfriends, Ms. Rosin recalled. The two met that night.

“He found out where I worked and came to visit me,” she said.

Their 20th wedding anniversary is in September.

“He says the most important thing is his family,” said Mr. Kar. “He’s enjoyed every minute of his daughter; it’s never ever about him. It’s always about her and his wife.”

Tickets for the “A Night for Steve” fundraiser are sold out, but to make a donation to help the Rosin family, visit giveforward.com/SteveRosinFund.

cmiller@timesreview.com

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