When John Kehoe learned he had pancreatic cancer, he turned to his Dr. Keather Kehoe, and asked, “It can be surgically resected, can’t it?” Though Keather does not see pancreatic cancer in her work as a child psychiatrist, she clearly remembers learning about it in medical school. “I knew it was the worst cancer one could have,” she says.
When John developed jaundice in early 2011, he made a trip to his physician’s office. By May, 2011, he received the news no one wants to hear: he had pancreatic cancer. His medical team attempted a Whipple procedure, hoping to remove John’s tumor. Unfortunately, when they opened him up, they realized his cancer had spread throughout his body. They immediately sewed John back up, knowing it was impossible to remove the cancer that riddled his body.
After that, John’s condition declined quickly. He spent nearly six weeks in the Intensive Care Unit. Though he was extremely ill, he recovered enough to go home. Sadly, pancreatic cancer was ravaging his body, forcing him to return to the hospital repeatedly over the following months.
John’s medical team recommended a number of other procedures, hoping to prolong his life. John, who had been extremely ill since his diagnosis, could no longer see the point of continuing treatments. John passed away on September, 10, 2011, just four months after he first learned he had pancreatic cancer.
“He was a pretty reserved guy,” Keather says. “He was a stoic New Englander.” Born and Raised in Rhode Island, John completed his education and served with the United States Army during the Vietnam War. Though he was proud of his service, it was something he rarely spoke about.
John’s career took him all over the world. After completing his MBA at Fordham University, John worked for 35 years, mainly in finance and operations. He was Chief Financial Officer for companies such as Intel Corporation and Texas Instruments.
Though John was not one to wear his emotions on his sleeve, something changed following his cancer diagnosis. “When he got sick, he opened up a lot more. He said all of the things he wanted to say. We were able to say our good-byes to one another,” Keather recalls.
Keather started running in July, 2007, when she was 34 years old. “I took up running because someone told me I could not run a 5k and I wanted to prove that person wrong,” she explains. As she trained for the race, she found she really enjoyed running. These days, Keather enjoys decompressing with a run after a difficult day at work, using the time to reflect on the important things in her life.
The Boston Marathon
In 2009, Keather ran her first marathon, with her dad looking on as she finished. Keather soon had a goal of running the Boston Marathon. Sadly, her father passed away a few months before she ran her first Boston Qualifying time in 2012. John was extremely supportive of Keather’s running and she said she felt her father’s presence with her as she ran that first qualifying time.
Keather has now run the Boston Marathon four times. In 2013, she had an unusual experience. While she normally felt her father was with her during her races, for some reason she did not that day. She soon learned of the bombing at the finish line. It made sense to her now. “My father was looking over our family at the finish line to keep them safe.”
From Heartbreak Hill to Heartache
Boston holds a special place in Keather’s heart. Since much of her father’s family still lives in Rhode Island, going to run the marathon always feels like a ‘homecoming’. Out of the 25 marathons she has run, the 2014 Boston Marathon is Keather’s all-time favorite race. She explains, “I had no goals. I had already gotten a qualifier at an earlier race. I wasn’t sure how things were going to go, but it ended up being just a wonderful race. It was a celebration.”
In 2016, Keather ran a qualifying time for, but this time around qualifying was not enough. Because Boston has become so popular, it turned out she needed to run two minutes and 9 seconds faster than her official qualifying time to get into the race. She came up just shy of the required time.
Returning to Boston with Project Purple
Undaunted, Keather decided to look for entry through a charity. She will be toeing the line in 2017 as part of the Project Purple Boston Marathon team. “When I was looking at entry through the charity process, it was overwhelming. I have no fundraising experience. However, everyone has been very gracious, giving and caring.”
As Keather shares her father’s story through her fundraising efforts, she has learned pancreatic cancer impacts so many people’s lives. “Over the last couple of months of fundraising, I have heard a lot of stories from people who were affected by pancreatic cancer. I hear these stories and it makes this experience more meaningful and emotional,” Keather explains.
While the Boston Marathon always means a great deal to Keather, knowing she is running for pancreatic cancer charity Project Purple adds to the experience. She says, “It amplifies the level of emotion I will experience in Boston. I think this race will be even more special to me.”
To read about Keather’s running and follow her training progress, click here