July 4, 2003 – November 18, 2012
Joey Keller was born on July 4th, 2003 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. In the middle of a torrential downpour and huge booms of thunder, around 9pm, little Joey entered the world. To his parents, this was a true miracle for they were told they would not be able to have children of their own. In that respect, Joey was a miracle from the get-go.
In the fall of 2010 Joey was enjoying a normal childhood, busy with and excelling in school work and sports (especially swimming), and spending time with family and friends, when he began to have severe nausea in the mornings and after playing outside. After weeks of struggling and doctors doing tests, on November 21st, a CT scan finally revealed a golf ball size tumor in the posterior fossa (back) of Joey’s brain. He was rushed to Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, and radiation was started immediately. The lab tests after the tumor resection confirmed Joey had medulloblastoma, a very hard to treat and aggressive type of pediatric cancer. Joey was already at stage 4 with dissemination down his spine. If they didn’t start treatment immediately, he would be in a coma within days. Joey came through the surgery with flying colors, actually asking the surgeon, while his head was still fixed to the operating table and they were closing the incision, “Is the surgery over yet?” It took a couple of weeks for him to come out of the hospital, but they used an ambulance to transport him for daily emergent radiation treatments. Eventually his energy, sight, and strength improved, allowing his amazing personality to again shine.
Growing up, Joey was always focused on others. When his friends would come over to play at his house, he would offer his toys, food, or money to them, if he felt he had more than they did. At his soccer games, as soon as a teammate seemed upset or got hurt, Joey became focused on trying to help him feel better. At times, this forced the coach to put in another player because Joey didn’t ask permission; he just went with the hurt player or stayed with a player on the sidelines who was upset because he missed a goal or the team got beat.
One of Joey’s parents’ favorite pictures of him, from a vacation, is of him with his hand on his cousin’s shoulder at a putt-putt course, comforting him after a tough round. He seemed to always gravitate to hurting people and to do whatever it took to make them feel better.
During Joey’s long months of chemotherapy, radiation, and hospital stays, there was no shortage of hurting people. Joey had a strong faith in God and he was always talking with and praying for these hurting kids and their families. Once, a boy and his family down the hall had received really bad news, and Joey could hear the boy crying. He immediately asked his dad to drive home and get a big Star Wars toy set that Joey had saved for and give it to the boy, in an effort to cheer him up. On another occasion when friends came to visit Joey at his house, he found out that the boy his age was really into a certain kind of toy that Joey had; when the boy mentioned that he didn’t have any of that particular set, Joey gave him what he had. His parents felt that for an 8 year old, going through the seemingly endless chemo, nausea, and physical therapy to learn to walk again, this was remarkable. It seemed that Joey had figured out, at his young age, that giving was truly more fun than receiving.
In the fall of 2011 Joey relapsed and began chemotherapy for recurrent disease. Those treatments only provided a temporary slowing of the tumors’ growth, and he began to lose control of his facial muscles; so the family and medical team decided to repeat radiation so he could continue to eat, talk, and show the world that wonderful smile that could light up a room. In late September 2012, he began having seizures, and the cancer progressed to a place where medicine had nothing left to offer. He slowly lost the ability to walk, to eat, to communicate, to remember the toys he loved, to recognize his parents, and, on November 18, 2012, to breathe.
We, Joey’s Grandparents, have a desire was to find a cure for medulloblastoma so that no child or child’s family ever has to experience what he and his family had to endure. We want to provide a full, healthy life to all these precious kids.
Thank you for helping us fight to eradicate the terrible scourge of pediatric brain cancer.