Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Keeghan's Story

Editor's Note: I have filled you with facts on Childhood Cancer for years. You've heard the statistics. You've heard me tell the stories of other children while Kennedy was in treatment. You've heard me plead for prayers as they fought. I think on some level everyone knows that childhood cancer is real, but if you only read MY blog and hear MY words, it might get redundant after awhile. (Not that I like to think of myself as boring!) ;) And so, I am starting a new series. I have asked some very special mamas to share their children's stories in their own words. Some of these children are survivors. They are still here fighting, every day. Others are in heaven, leaving in their departure a family changed forever by childhood cancer. Some of these children I've talked about on my blog before. You'll recognize them, you've prayed for them, you've shed tears for them, others will be new faces, all of them will be new stories because you'll be hearing it first hand from the front lines... cancer is war. Be aware of the battle.

Keeghan's Story
By: Shannon Kelley-Barry

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. A time to make people aware that children get cancer too.

I think it is safe to say that most people are aware that children CAN get cancer. After all, how many times have they seen a child with no hair, a child obviously going through chemotherapy, and looked away? Or maybe a commercial for a children’s hospital has come on the television and they’ve changed channels, because seeing sick kids is too difficult.

It’s sad. It’s scary. It hurts.

They’re aware.

I’m aware also. I’ve seen the child with no hair. I’ve seen the children’s hospital. But turning away was not an option for me. Why? Because the child with cancer was my son.

Keeghan was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in April of 2006 when he was just ten-years-old. He started suffering terrible headaches and nausea, bad enough that he couldn’t make it through a full day of school, and less than two weeks later was in a hospital having surgery to remove a tumor the size of a golf ball.

It happens that fast sometimes.

So yeah . . . I’m aware.

The tumor that the doctors originally thought would be benign wasn’t. Try telling a ten-year-old boy who has just had an 8-hour-long surgery two days ago that he now has to go through the exact same thing again, tomorrow, because his tumor is so bad that his best chance for survival is to go back in and get as much of the tumor out as possible.

Look into the terrified eyes of a little boy, your baby, as you reach that door to the operating room, and you can’t go any further with him, and he is crying for you to not let go.

Hold his hand as he wakes up and can’t speak, can’t move his left side . . .

I’m aware.

And then, when all of that is over, make him go through yet another surgery so that a contraption can be placed in his chest to make it easier for a nurse to stick a 2-inch-long needle into his chest every week in order to pump poison into him, in the desperate hope that it will kill the cancer cells left behind.

And then . . . then . . . hold a bowl in front of him as he vomits. And vomits. And vomits some more.

But it doesn’t stop there. While all of this poisoning and vomiting is going on, roll his little body in a wheelchair to the radiation department every day for 32 days so that they can zap his little brain with high-dose radiation.

I’m aware.

Fourteen months. That is how long Keeghan went through chemo. All of his scans during that time showed no evidence of tumor. He won! He beat The Beast!

But no . . . less than six months later . . . there’s a spot on the MRI. It starts again.

He beat it once though, he can do it again. Right?


I’M AWARE ALREADY!!! Make it stop! Please.

Eight more months of chemo. Radiation isn’t a possibility; he’d received his maximum dose the first time around. But he can do it. You just know he can. He is going to be the success story.

August 13, 2008 - “We’re sorry. There’s nothing more we can do.”

Tell a 12-year-old that the doctors don’t have any more tricks up their sleeve. Explain hospice to him. Hold your 14-year-old daughter as she sobs because you’ve just told her that her little brother, her best friend in the world, is going to die. Soon.

Watch as this hideous disease ravages your child, taking everything from him. His ability to walk, talk, eat ... hug you, kiss you goodnight. And then . . . THEN . . . watch over his lifeless body as you wait for a funeral home to come to your house to get him.

Accept that urn they hand you a few days later with his name beautifully engraved in the top - Keeghan Michael Kelley Barry.

Forever 12-years-old.

I’m more aware of the fact that children get cancer than any parent should ever have to be.

That is why we cancer parents do everything we can to make others aware. The only way to stop more children like Keeghan from dying is to make people aware. Raise money for much-needed research.

Awareness. Please don’t turn away from it. Embrace it and help spread it.

Keeghan Barry
Anaplastic Astrocytoma
March 7, 1996 - August 31, 2008


Mama2Kayden said...

Just heartbreaking. ***tears***
Thank you for sharing your story, Keeghan's mom. So so sorry for your loss. Your words will forever have an impact on so many.

skeleigh said...

Thank you Renee, for sharing my Keeghan, and thank you Mama2Kayden for reading it. I hope you're right and that my words and Keeghan's story will have some impact - every small bit of awareness that is spread helps other children.

~just me~ said...

Thank you, Renee, for doing this new series to raise awareness. And thank you, Shannon, for sharing Keeghan's story with us. I can't imagine what you went through/go through....but I will be praying for you and your family. God bless you.

Manuella said...

dear Shannon and family, thank you for sharing Keeghan's story, it is truly heartbreaking. I hope you all found strenght in the past few years as you try to heal from this loss.
We suffered the loss of my brother to the beast just a few weeks before Keeghan lost his battle to the beast... Maybe my brother is holding Keeghan's hand and they both take care of their familes from heaven
Hugs to you all

(from Belgium)

McCammons said...

Thank you very much for sharing your story and allowing us to learn more and more what it is like. Sadly, I know the life of cancer and it's not .... (no words) I am very sorry for your loss. Hugs and prayers to you and your family.

Anne B. said...

Thank you Shannon, for allowing Renee to share Keeghan's story. So much heartache for a family. I'm aware too. Our children can not have suffered in vain. We must advocate until people start to listen, REALLY listen, and then ACT!! I will be praying for peace in your heart even as you continue to deal with your grief. (((HUGS)))!!

JennaJennJenn said...

Keeghan was adorable. I'm so sorry for his suffering and for your loss. You are a powerful writer and your message is a wonderful tribute to your son.

Vonda said...

I think the lump in my throat is so big that I may not be able to breathe for a long time. My heart is actually aching, and that's not just a figure of speech here. My lap a puddle. I cannot even imagine. Nothing could hurt worse than losing your child.

Leah S. said...

UGH!!! I hate Cancer. I hate that "our kids" have such a high incidence of it. I hate that my niece was walking and talking one day, diagnosed with DPIG the next, and four days later she was gone. I hate Cancer. Hate it.