“It just happened overnight, so I don’t know how long he had been sick,” said Keeton’s mom, Ginna. “He woke up and told me he was having some pain in his legs, and then that whole day he didn’t walk at all. The next day he complained of pain and didn’t walk again.”
So Keeton’s parents took him to his pediatrician. When nothing popped up in blood tests, he was referred to a neurologist.
The neurologist ordered another blood panel. “I knew he was going to tell me something bad because he brought his nurse,” remembered Ginna. “He closed the curtain. So I knew then what he was going to say.”
Keeton received a diagnosis of leukemia on September 26, 2016, and was referred to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
St. Jude has implemented groundbreaking development of combination therapy for children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, Keeton’s disease. This has increased the survival rate from 4% when St. Jude opened in 1962 to 94% today.
“St. Jude means everything to me. They’re saving my baby’s life,” Ginna said.
Just a month after celebrating the end of two-and-a-half years of chemotherapy with a No More Chemo party at St. Jude, Keeton kicked off the summer by taking part in the Kindergarten Graduation at the St. Jude School Program by Chili's.
He recently met his first grade teacher at the school in his community and “has never been more excited.”
Even in the midst of treatment, energetic Keeton was a constant blur of motion, obsessed with racecars and going fast. Sometimes, when he was running around, his family was just putting one foot in front of the other, trying to make it through to the other side of childhood cancer.
“It was hard,” said Ginna. “But you know, it’s life. You try to take it day by day.” Now that Keeton is finished with treatment, his family is taking steps to support more cures, by taking part in the St. Jude Walk/Run event.
“We’ve decided that I’m not a big runner,” joked Ginna, “but any way we can raise money to help give back is great – so if we have to walk, we can walk.”
“Keeton is my world,” she said. “I would not trade him for anything.”