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Pete Montesano: Living and Giving

POSTED October 03, 2010
BY Rick Wilson
Twitter: @scribewilson


            Pete Montesano’s story would be impressive enough if it was just about the fight to survive. A rugged knock down, drag out battle against cancer that includes a stem cell transplant. Advantage Montesano. Make no mistake about it, every inch of Montesano is about living.

            But the story to live has to share equal billing with the story to give. When cancer took on Pete Montesano, it got more than it bargained for. Montesano has gone from the prey to the predator. He’s winning his battle and has declared war. Don’t bet against him.

            It’s all about living and giving.

            The 3rd annual Peter Montesano Charity Golf Classic was held recently at Fairview Farm Golf Club in Harwinton. Montesano was there looking fit and trim with a large contingent of family members including his wife, Susan, sons Bryan and Greg, daughter Caitlin and sister Patricia O’Brien.

            This is the giving part and also a salute to Montesano, a former Watertown High ice hockey coach and employee of Frito-Lay. The more than 60 golfers on hand were donating to benefit a trio of organizations designed to put some heat on cancer itself instead of the other way around.

 Companions in Courage, the Harold Lever Regional Cancer Center and Yale New Haven Bone Marrow Unit have now been the recipients of more than ,000 raised over the last three years. Montesano is alive and he would like to keep others alive.

I was one of the lucky ones to be at Fairview. And if you can’t feel good about the golf game which produced more than a few double-play ground balls that was the least of your concerns.

Our lively foursome was more than just a bunch of laughs and good sports conversation with as good as guy as there is - former Torrington High boys basketball coach Tony Turina, the young gun of the group and one of Turina’s finest shooters ever, Jay Reginatto, and long-time Thomaston High Athletic Director, Bill Ryan.

We didn’t come close to winning for the simple reason that Bob Ferrarotti put trees and a rough on the course and we found most of it. Also, the best cart girl around Megan continued to show up. No big deal, this one is about a good time and we had it.

But what had you really feeling good were Montesano and his family. The first time around, event organizers led by Tim Gaffney, who has put a lot of himself into making this happen for a great cause and a good friend, used the motto, “Who’s tougher than Pete Montesano.” No question mark because it is a statement.

But you really can add, Who’s better than Pete Montesano. Again, a statement.

Montesano was diagnosed with Stage 4 Large B-Cell Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in November of 2005. Chemotherapy, which is kind of like pouring Drano into your system, and a Stem-Cell transplant were scheduled for 2006,

Although the Stem Cell treatments were successful, additional tumor sites were discovered and a Bone Marrow transplant followed with Pete’s sister Patricia O’Brien testing as a perfect donor match.

After more Chemotherapy and radiation, the transplant was successfully performed in May of 2007 and Pete has been in remission for more than two years.

 A few paragraphs don’t do justice to Montesano and his family and this fight. There was the original diagnosis and what that brought. The second round when the cancer reappeared. Montesano never backed down.

“You have two options he tells you, “You can feel pity and not care about it or use a positive attitude. Most cancer patients that survive, medicine can do a lot, but it is because you can’t conquer the spirit. I never flinched. I have the positive attitude. It’s always been like, okay, you have one more step.”

How about Monsanto’s wife, Susan. She was two years into nursing school. Now life was about your husband surviving. “I was trying to make sure he got the proper care and was doing what he was supposed to go. And I was trying to get through school and get my daughter through high school and this. We did it.”

Montesano’s sister, Patricia O’Brien makes you wonder if there is any limit to the indomitability to the human spirit. You walk away ashamed for almost everything you ever complain about or you should after sitting down with her.

She was the bone marrow donor. Pete calls her his hero. Take it from me, she is everybody’s hero. Twice a cancer survivor herself in 2006 and 2008, Susan has also seen her 17-year old son Michael killed by a drunk driver in 2005 and her husband Chuck killed in a motorcycle accident in 2006.

Are you kidding me? How much can one person endure? We all go through trials in life but there is an almost macabre absurdity to this. Yet, she smiles. Her courage is Pete’s courage and ultimately she hopes our courage.

“I think there is an inner strength that we didn’t know we had,” said O’Brien. I believe that we pass it on to other people who say wow look what they have been through,” As a family we’ve always given back. I’ve been inspired. Pete has forged ahead and it is not a hand you want to be dealt with.”

Those Montesanos just ooze an unconquerable aura of invincibility.

Pete has taken the best out of the bad. The family strength that has emerged and the message that has been sent. He sees this as a second chance, an at times painful and frightful reminder to slow down and not just smell the roses but to pick a bouquet.

The giving back part and the chance to go beyond survive and thrive in part by helping others. Gaffney lost his older sister to colon cancer. Pete’s plight and courage moved him to organize the tournament to give back.

“Pete’s unselfishness, perseverance and desire to give are unbelievable,” says Gaffney.  

Pete Montesano was watching the Ryder Cup matches Saturday afternoon. It is great to live. Last week once again he helped to raise money and offered en example of undaunting will against a devastating disease. It is great to give.

Who’s tougher than Pete Montesano? Nobody. Who’s better than Pete Montesano and his family? Nobody.

Pete and Co. know  - It’s all about living and giving.



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