Arkansas boy, 7, fighting ninth round in life-long cancer journey

Arkansas boy, 7, fighting ninth round in life-long cancer journey

Support from Arkansans continues to help kids like Keagan defy odds

By Becky McCauley

Arkansas Children’s Hospital Seven-year-old Keagan Provost has been fighting a devastating illness most of his life. This Arkansas boy has faced 70 surgeries, as well as hundreds of chemotherapy treatments at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock.

But Keagan is unstoppable, as anyone who has met him will attest. A superhero himself, this Batman mega-fan continues to astound his parents, his doctors and everyone he meets.

Keagan’s journey with cancer began when he was 13 months old when he started wobbling when he walked. At first, his mom Robin Burklow wasn’t worried. Toddlers wobble, after all. But when Keagan began to vomit frequently, she made an appointment with his pediatrician, who diagnosed an ear infection and prescribed medicine. But Keagan didn’t get better.

When he became dehydrated, Robin took Keagan to the local emergency room. The doctor gave him fluids and said he could go home. But Robin’s intuition told her there was something seriously wrong.

Thankfully, the doctors listened.

Robin and Keagan were living in New York state at the time. Keagan was transported by ambulance to a nearby children’s hospital, where he was stabilized and given a battery of tests.

Robin was horrified when an MRI showed a baseballsized mass in his tiny brain.

Robin’s precious baby boy had cancer.

Keagan underwent an 11- hour surgery to remove the tumor. Doctors told Robin he would never talk. Never walk. Never even move.

“Essentially, they told me to be prepared to take him home and love him as much as I could until he passed away,” Robin said.

But after a week-long coma, Keagan stirred and the unexpected began happening. He was moving. His left eye was lazy, and he couldn’t move his left arm or leg, but it was progress.

When Robin cradled Keagan, she held onto his right side to encourage him to use his left. Two months later, Keagan began to crawl.

Robin and Keagan soon moved back to Arkansas, during this stretch, where they would have the emotional support of family. Little did Robin know, she would need her family more than she ever dreamed.

Keagan’s cancer, called ependymoma, usually occurs in the brain. “When they remove this type of tumor, it’s like blowing on a dandelion,” Robin explains. “There is a strong possibility it will spread.”

Unfortunately, right before his 3rd birthday, Keagan’s cancer came back, and his battle started again, this time with the help of Arkansas Children’s Hospital, part of the state’s only pediatric health care system.

Over the last six years, the cancer has returned nine times in Keagan’s brain and spine. He has undergone more than 70 surgeries and hundreds of chemotherapy and radiation treatments with a team of neurology and oncology experts who are nationally renowned.

During this journey, Keagan’s heart stopped beating three times. He has been placed on a ventilator during several crises, and several cancer-killing getic boy. The scars that years of medication have drugs.

criss-cross his head and his damaged his hearing, an In spite of all this, Keagan bright-orange hearing aids unfortunate side effect of is a bright, curious, ener- are the only visible signs this amazing little boy is in a constant fight for his life.

Keagan continues, day after day, week after week, year after year, to defy the odds. Robin is so grateful for the support of Arkansans who make gifts to Arkansas Children’s Hospital to help babies like hers.

“You really don’t know how much of a difference your generosity makes,” she said. “Your support makes a dark situation a lot brighter.”

Too many kids will spend the holidays battling cancer and other illnesses. You can help change the story for kids like Keagan. Support these families and their care by calling 800-880-7491 or visit http://giving.archildrens. org/donate-now-marcom.