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Our Friend Eric

Our Friend Eric

In the words of some of the people who knew him, here is a portrait of our late friend Eric.

“Eric Dell Schwortz was our younger son, husband to Allyson, brother to Steve, and friend to so many who continue to be supportive and exceptional human beings. He was a light and treasure to those who knew and loved him. He was a true Renaissance man, with talents in music, art, and photography.

“He was 32 when first diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Three years later, after he and Allyson moved to Seattle, we learned that his cancer had metastasized to his liver and lungs. Eric endured cancer, with many side effects and complications, but he always lived life to the fullest and tried to influence us all to be better. Cancer Lifeline became so important to him, and to all those involved, we offer our heartfelt thanks, and a donation to help so many others. He will always be in our hearts and minds, and forever missed.” – Fern & Jerry Schwortz

“Our life was totally knocked off course (his words). The first time around, it felt like a very scary bump in the road. We still got married, traveled, and made plans for our future,” said Allyson Paisley, Eric’s wife.  “The second time, it was bigger. We tried very hard to keep our life moving forward—finding joy through travel, buying a home, and most of all spending time with loved ones. He gave up his dream of being a teacher, and despite lots of effort through fertility treatments, he didn’t get to become a dad. In his words, he just ‘wanted to see what happened next.’ He wanted to see his friends’ kids grow up, what happened with the election, and in general, how things panned out.”

Eric first approached Cancer Lifeline about our support group for cancer patients under 40, but he quickly became a true advocate and a true friend.

“We were so new to the area when he was re-diagnosed. He found community and support at Cancer Lifeline. People who he could truly relate to and connect with in a world where that was incredibly hard to find for a person in their mid-30s,” continues Allyson. “He made friends, many of whom have since passed away. CL was a place to be vulnerable—to vent and cry and laugh over dark humor that no one else got. To discuss topics that are otherwise taboo— things that cancer “muggles” just couldn’t understand.”

Sadly, Eric passed in March 2020. What follows is a small collection of memories from several people in the Cancer Lifeline community whose encounters with Eric left an indelible impression.

“I can clearly remember talking to Eric on the phone shortly after he arrived in Seattle.  He had been a part of a Young Adult cancer group in New York and wanted very much to get into a group here.  Eric had a ton of questions — how it was run, how it was facilitated, what were other group members experiencing, etc.  Bottom line: he didn’t want to waste his time attending a group that wasn’t going to meet his needs.  Of course, I strongly encouraged him to attend a meeting and see how he felt about it.  He took on an informal leadership role from the get-go.  He started the group’s Facebook page and was always willing to talk to other YA’s who were inquiring about the group to tell them what to expect and the benefits of attending.   He was extremely instrumental in growing this group and helping it to flourish.” – Mary Ellen Shands, former Cancer Lifeline Program Manager

“Eric was unofficially our group’s welcome committee. He would always make sure that new members would feel welcomed and safe. He would connect with them before group and introduce himself, and then after group to ask if they’d want to meet up to hang out and connect further. Eric was kind, thoughtful, energetic, and always intentional. He was unafraid to ask the difficult questions and was always so present and engaged. Even if he was “exhausted as hell,” he would show up with a smile on his face and two middle fingers to the universe. He also always stayed true to himself, even until the very end. Even though Eric is gone now, we still feel his presence in our group and speak of him often.” – Grace Yang, Facilitator, Young Adult Cancer Support Group

“It’s hard for me to put into words what effect meeting Eric had on me.  I guess if I could sum it all up, I would say admiration.  I admired his attitude, his bravery, his ability to bring a smile to my face, and unfortunately, his hair.  I hold back tears when I think about what having hair can mean. Our two meetings were brief but powerful.  Please tell his wife and parents thank you.  Thank you for their support and for Eric.  He was truly a special one.”   – Ben Hicks, President, Cancer Lifeline’s Board of Directors

“While I knew Eric only briefly, it was immediately evident that he was a very special person.  I met him in 2019, prior to introducing him at the Cancer Lifeline Happy Hour to benefit the Young Adult Support Group, and we immediately bonded over our shared experiences with the town of Amherst, MA.  Eric even followed up our conversation the next day by sending me some amazing photos from his summer in Amherst.  I was sorry to have missed the opportunity to have heard his band then – they looked like they were having a blast!  We followed each other on social media, and I adored his beautiful photography and his positive realism.  I’m so thankful I had the opportunity to know him, even briefly, and I know he is dearly missed.” – Bethany Murphy, Cancer Lifeline board member

“We told Mary Ellen [Shands] when we came to visit our son Eric that we wished she could come back to New York with us and help us navigate our fear and grief. We could see how much of a positive difference the support groups and counseling made in Eric’s life,” said Fern and Jerry Schwortz, Eric’s parents. “We knew he was a real advocate for Cancer Lifeline’s programs, but it wasn’t until we received notification of the outpouring of support made in his memory that we realized how much of a lifeline Cancer Lifeline truly is.  That’s why it is important to us to make this matching gift for this year’s Breakfast with Friends fundraiser. We want to make sure that these programs continue to be free and accessible to all people living with cancer.”

Click here to donate. Learn more about Cancer Lifeline’s Young Adult Cancer Support Group.