A woman in Lawrence. A man in Hot Springs Village, Ark. Both voices struck that haunting, sober chord symptomatic of the topic of which they spoke: Cancer.
“It seems like someone in every family you know has had to deal with it,” said Susie Santee, who works for Hy-Vee in Lawrence.
Her father, the great miler Wes Santee, has been receiving treatment for what Susie termed, “very aggressive,” lymphoma in the abdomen. That wasn’t the source of the Santee family’s sadness Saturday.
The Saturday death of close friend Dick Wilson, Wes’ teammate at Kansas University, triggered the grief. Wilson was such a running enthusiast, whether competing himself or helping other runners into just the right pair of shoes while working part-time at Francis Sporting Goods on Mass Street after retiring from the insurance business. Wilson, 78, died after a 20-month battle with a malignant brain tumor.
A member of KU’s national championship cross country team, Wilson won the conference two-mile title in the spring of his senior season. Santee, Wilson, Lloyd Koby and Art Dalzell set the American four-mile relay record in 1953.
“Wes and I talked this morning and we were both kind of upset,” Koby said from his home in Hot Springs Village, Ark. “It’s a shame, Dick going this way, and Wes being treated for the last several months.”
Santee, his daughter said, has been undergoing chemotherapy and has enrolled in a treatment involving stem-cell transplants. He was released Saturday from the hospital from his latest round of treatments and was going to his home in Eureka.
“He had a positive tone to his voice,” Koby said of Santee. “Of course, that’s typical with chemo. When you get off from it, immediately you feel better.”
Koby knows what of he speaks.
“My wife has been through it,” he said of Betty, a close friend of Wilson’s widow, JoAn. “Five years in remission.”
Koby remembered Wilson as, “a very happy-go-lucky guy, a good guy to be around.”
Wilson e-mailed us often to make sure we knew of a particularly impressive performance from an active KU runner. While Wilson was doing that, Santee would e-mail or call to make sure Wilson got his due for a great running career that resumed in the mid-’80s and was still going strong until he suffered a hip injury in 2005.
After becoming ill, Wilson helped to promote a 5K run-and-walk event in Lawrence last September for the benefit of the Chris Anthony Brain Tumor Research Fund at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
“Hopefully, one of these days, we will find a cure and find the treatments that will be able to treat these tumors to the point that maybe down the road our children and our grandchildren won’t have to face this, and if they do, there will be a cure for it,” Wilson said. “That is my prayer.”
Koby said he plans to speak to Santee tonight to “see how he’s feeling and perhaps pick him up on the way to Lawrence for the services” the specifics of which were not available Saturday night.