Hey guys, my name is Keegan Doheney and I have stood up and beat cancer not only once, but twice. Looking at me today, nobody would ever guess my childhood was anything but normal but it was as far from it as possible.
For those of you who have not been around Acute lymphoblastic leukemia, it is a disease that comes from cancerous white blood cells which spread and halt the creation of healthy and productive blood cells. Because it is a blood cancer, catching it can be very difficult.
Which brings us to my fight, my story. Like I said before I was unfortunate enough to be given the “c” word diagnosis twice. The first diagnosis came when I was only two years of age. It was set to be an exciting morning as my family and I were heading up to Big Bear mountain for vacation. We all woke up and as my mom was getting me dressed and ready to go she noticed a large bruise which had not been there the night before, so just to be safe she brought me to the hospital on the way out. We met with the doctor and were sent to get blood drawn. As my mom tells the story, she was holding my in line as the woman behind her tapped her on the back and told her I had some blood coming from my mouth, and as she went to wipe it away, my gums burst and began streaking blood down my face. We were rushed in, and within minutes my parents were informed that I had cancer. So began the never ending hospital visits and therapies for the next year until we knocked the cancer into remission with the belief that we had won the battle.
Now bear with me here, this story connects later on down there. Just as my treatments were wrapping up, my mother gave birth to my younger brother. There had been this new birth procedure she had been reading about called “cord blood banking”, which she must have bought into because my parents elected to save and store the umbilical cord blood after my brothers birth for no reason other than “what if”.
Two years later, the heart dropping news came again. This time, there were no bruises or signs of the cancer and to this day my mom claims the only reason she took me out of my kindergarden class and to the hospital was because of “mothers intuition”. How my mom knew, I will never know but to this day I am thankful she did because it could have been to late otherwise. So the cancer is back, the treatments before were not working, what were we going to do? That was the start of the chemotherapy and intensive radiation to try and knock it out. If it was not enough already, as the radiation and medication weakened my immune system so it could reset, another virus appeared. We believe it was a stomach virus I had gotten while in Yosemite. The virus normally was a simple stomach bug, but without my immune system it became deadly, dropping my survival rate to below 50%. The only option now was a stem-cell transplant to repair the bone-marrow that was creating this cancerous cells.
A transplant, great right? Now we just needed a blood donor. All the family, even my older brother were not close to being matches, but to our surprise, my younger brother was a perfect match. But how would we take so much blood from a two year old? Then it hit my parents, the cord blood!
And with that I became one of the first children in the US to get a full bone-marrow transplant. I lived in a hospital for 6 months, never seeing the outside or breathing fresh air and now I am cancer free for 17 years and never felt better. I went into sports a year later and never stopped. Whether it was soccer, basketball, baseball, football, or boxing, I never let my past keep me from pushing forward.
People always ask what I remember from those years even though I was so young, and to be honest it is all my family and my amazing friends and community. One, if not both of my parents were always by my side. My brothers and sister visited daily and would sit with me and play UNO or watch Grease. What warms my heart most though, was the act of kindness that came from our friends from school. Because of the time requirement my parents had to put into me, it left work at home undone and hard to do. My community took it upon themselves to bring dinner to my family every night so whichever parent was at home with my siblings would not have to worry.
I have and will continue to stand with those who have to face the tragedy and fear that comes with the “c” word. I have volunteered and chaired for multiple Relay for Life events and gone around to multiple venues and spoke about the experiences I had and shown everyone that with love and strong family support, but mostly hope, anyone can beat cancer.