In January 2012, Keegan went to get a dark mole removed from under her arm. She had noticed that it was changing in color and size. The doctor said that it was going to be easy to remove, and so it was. About a week after that, she went to get her stitches removed and got the word that it was stage 3 melanoma. Most people hear melanoma and think, “oh it’s just skin cancer!” Well, I can assure you it has the potential to be a whole lot more than that!
Melanoma starts on the skin, but has the potential to become metastatic or travel other places in the body. We were hoping that was not the case for Keegan, as she had to undergo surgery the following month to clear the margins and make sure it didn’t spread anywhere else. The doctors removed some of her lymphnodes as well in case the melanoma had spread, but everything was clear! This was great news as Keegan began her junior year at San Diego State University.
A year of clean scans and MRI’s went by and the first week of Keegan’s senior year at SDSU she felt a sharp pain in her armpit area. She distinctly remembers looking to her classmate next to her and explaining that she could barely write because of the pain. She knew something was up immediately. She knows her body well (thank God!)
She called her Oncologist and he was able to see her that day. He suggested a biopsy right away, and the biopsy proved that the melanoma had in fact spread to her lymphnodes. She had to take academic leave from school to get another surgery and discuss treatment options since it had recurred. Being that it was her Senior year of SDSU, she was not happy about the timing. There is never a “right” time for cancer, but it really had interrupted a crucial period in her life.
After another surgery, Keegan was approached with the opportunity to be in a clinical trial at UCLA medical center. There she began her treatment of Interferon to kick this melanoma for good! December of 2013, she began her 12 month program at UCLA medical center. She stayed with her cousins up in LA and received infusions of interferon Monday-Friday for a month straight. After that she was to do 11 months of self injections, which she absolutely dreaded every single day. The interferon made her extremely sick. Basically all of the side effects of the drug, she experienced. Depression, mood changes, massive hair loss, rashes, horrible flu like symptoms, extreme exhaustion, insomnia at night, and anxiety. Not to mention its not fun to poke yourself with a needle everyday. Since she was in a clinical trial and this was her second attempt at battling melanoma, she was continuously getting MRI’s, CT scans, PET scans, etc. to make sure it wasn’t spreading anywhere else. The interferon managed to keep her cancer free for about 9 months after that.
In August 2014, as Keegan was 2 months away from completing her treatment, the doctors noticed spots on her liver starting to appear. Another biopsy proved that melanoma had now spread to her liver! Keegan was devastated, but she is not one to quit. Obviously the interferon wasn’t working so the doctors have now suggested she try a recently FDA approved drug called yervoy (ipilimumab). Yervoy is a medicine used in adults to treat melanoma that has spread and cannot be removed by surgery.
We said our final goodbye to our beautiful angel on August 10, 2015, the saddest moment of our lives! Thank you for being here and supporting the Keegan’s Kids mission.
Paula, Caleb, Delaney and many family and friends! xoxo