Features & Images » Feature Story

Winning the Fight

Daffodil Day on April 27 is a special day to reflect, help and show support for those living with cancer

by

comment

Page 4 of 8

He was at the fireman's ball at the GLC, an annual event to raise money for equipment the fire hall wouldn't otherwise get, when he began to take notice.

Keith touches the spot on his neck under his right ear as he recalls the night.

Twice in the course of the evening someone asked him about the lump under his ear.

It was enough to give him some concern and he went to see Dr. Tom DeMarco right away.

"Several years later he showed me his notebook and he had written down Hodgkin's disease right there and then," says Keith.

The doctor was right. But he didn't tell Keith. Instead he sent him to Squamish for a biopsy.

Stage 1 Hodgkin's disease, now called Hodgkin's lymphoma — cancer originating from white blood cells.

"I had the weirdest feeling, like I was ecstatic, like I'd won the Stanley Cup because I thought it could have been so much worse," says Keith. "I felt like I'd won the lottery which is really weird...Anyone else would have been devastated."

Keith knew that his chances of survival were very good; it was the same cancer that hockey great Mario Lemieux had been diagnosed with five years previous. And he came back from Hodgkin's to set NHL records.

Still, life had to go on hold for the time being.

Keith stopped working, devoting all his attention to getting the cancer out of his body and getting well again.

The details are hazy now — how often he went for chemotherapy at Lions Gate Hospital, how much of a toll it took on his body.

He was just 38 years old, not married, no family.

The cancer forced him to think about the future. What if the treatment made him sterile? Would it ruin his chances of having a family down the road?

He decided to bank some sperm, just in case. He didn't need it. And now he's the proud father of two young girls.

Keith says he never dwelled on the dark side of cancer.

He does, however, remember the radiation treatment.

Pulling down his collared shirt, Keith shows off his only tattoo. A tiny brown dot against his tanned skin. It's perhaps the only physical reminder now of his ordeal.

"They landmark where they're going to hit you with the radiation," he says.

Every day for two weeks he had radiation on the spot on his neck.

After a few days he knew he was in for a rough ride — things started smelling funny, tasting funny and by the end of the second week it was a chore to sip a thin milkshake.