Caleb Keegan Brave & Beautiful Ambassador
- Hodgkins Lymphoma
The last thing I ever expected at 15 was hearing these words come out of my dad's mouth, "We got the results back from the biopsy... You have Hodgkins Disease."
I felt kinda OK with that at first because I didn't have a clue what that meant, so I asked, "What does that mean?" My dad then dropped the bomb, "It means you have CANCER". My mind; blank. My world; crumbling. My heart; cold.
I sat in shock as my dad drove me home. I had just returned from a leadership tour. As soon as i got home i ran upstairs to phone my closest friend, Caiden. I told him the news.
"Caleb! Don't lie about stuff like that." He says, "Next thing you know you really will have cancer!"
Then it hit me. Tears began to plummet to the ground. A cold, dark fear crept over me. I couldn't let anyone know. I had to be strong. I had to stay positive. Potential addict that I already was at that time, I remembered the feeling of escape and sense of freedom I got when I drank and used drugs. It was clear to me.
I NEEDED TO USE. Use any mood and mind altering substance I could. I needed to block it out.
Escape reality. Escape the pain. Escape life. At all costs. Drugs and alcohol became my solution to life. The solution to the fear that began to drive my existence. My attitude was, I'm going to die so until then I'm going to do whatever I want. I became so incredibly selfish and self-centered. The problem I faced eight years later was, I didn't die. what i was left with was me, an empty shell of a man and the hurt I had caused my family and friends.
In those eight years I learned and became familiar with the pain and discomforts of having cancer treatment. The chemotherapy, radiation and multiple surgeries. I experienced the insecurities of loosing my hair, gaining weight, being different to other kids. I would worry about others accepting me. I was introduced to the notorious nausea.
The mad thing was that I never spoke to anyone. I never honestly told people how badly I was hurting. I felt like it was so unfair! Why me? I felt like God was taunting me with brief periods of remission, always followed by even worse relapse, more intrusive surgeries and stronger chemo. I slipped into such incredible self-pity.
I HATED MY LIFE!!!!
But I never told a soul. I HAD TO BE STRONG. I felt like I had to deal with it on my own. Living in the pain I created, I needed a way to change how I felt. The only way I knew was to obliterate my reality with chemicals.
Now, almost 23 years old I live with two potentially fatal diseases; addiction and cancer. one has a possibility of cure, the other doesn't. I will always have addiction. Through all the chemo, radiation and surgeries I used drugs to try and cope with or block out the reality of my life.
I am a cancer patient and I am an addict. I could never accept myself. I could never accept my life. I wanted things to be different. I needed things to be different. If only i didn't have cancer, if only i was thinner. if only I wasn't me, then I would be happy.
Eventually I got to a place where I wanted to die. I was too scared to live and too scared to take my own life. Today I don't have to take any drugs to deal with life. No street drugs, no prescription medication, no psychiatric medication and not a drop of alcohol.
Through working the Twelve Step program, on a daily basis, i have found a new freedom and a new happiness. I have a connection to life. I no longer feel separate and apart from the world. It is only because of having two diseases, and going through the pain associated with each one, that I have come to know such joy. My perception of life has changed completely.
I never thought I would say these words, "I am grateful for having cancer, I am grateful to be an addict."
I want to thank The Pink Phoenix Cancer Foundation for changing my life, for giving me the opportunity to share my story. A miracle. A story of how people saved my life when I was fighting to die. I am eternally grateful for the Lanterns 4 Life event. It was on that night that I knew (a) There is a God, and (b) God loves me. I have come to accept my life as it is and I see the beauty in everything.
I want to thank the public for all your support and financial help. I owe you my life. The Cedars recovery center has taught me how to live. how to be selfless, loving and accepting. Thank you.
My family who has had to endure so much pain, watching me do the things I did. They stood by me and did what they needed to do to help me. Which was tough. I love you.
But for the grace of God go I...
Caleb Keegan 1990-2014
Caleb Keegan passed away in March 2014 at the age of 23 years after an 8 year battle against Cancer.
May he Rest in Peace