Dexter resident sees cancer battle as team effort

Wednesday, July 6, 2005

Mike Keathley is on the road to recovery following colon cancer.

DEXTER, Mo. -- In the Boy Scout Law, it is stated, "A Scout is true to his family," "A Scout looks for the bright side of things," and "A Scout understands there is strength in being gentle."

So it is no surprise that Dexter resident Mike Keathley drew upon some of those lessons learned over a lifetime of Scouting and through his role of Scout leader as well, when he was faced with the challenge of a lifetime in the spring of 2003.

Keathley, a well-known name in the Scouting arena, is an Eagle Scout himself, and has served in numerous Scouting administrative roles over the years, including Council Camping chairman, executive board member and vice president of the SEMO Council, to name a few. He currently serves on the Executive Board of the Greater St. Louis Area Council, and performs those duties while holding the position of the Commissioner of Administration for Missouri, having been appointed by Gov. Matt Blunt in January. The Keathleys maintain homes in both Dexter and Jefferson City, in an effort to spend quality time with family.

In the spring of 2003 -- on the evening of his 10th wedding anniversary -- Keathley, then 46, passed out while eating dinner and was rushed by his wife, Julie, to the local hospital. Although he insisted on returning to his home that night, the next day was spent at a Cape Girardeau hospital, after he experienced a night of severe abdominal pain.

Diagnostic testing confirmed the Kealthleys' worst fears. He had colon cancer.

But Mike Keathley, the father of two preschool boys, was certain of a positive outcome.

"I was convinced from the very first day of my diagnosis that I would survive; God's plan for me was not yet finished," he said.

Keathley readily credits his eventual recovery to a team of experts, with wife at the helm. Julie Keathley is a "take charge" individual, and aptly took her husband's situation into her own hands, scheduling necessary appointments, and generally managing his medical and emotional needs throughout his illness, treatment, and recovery.

"Julie had all the burden of caretaking," said Keathley, adding, "She always emphasized to me and to everyone around us that everyone had to be on the team."

"Being on the team and believing that you will survive may not save you," said Keathley, "but if you don't believe that you'll survive, you certainly will not."

So believe they did. Their positive attitude carried the Keathley family through a medical nightmare that lasted well over a year. Between September 2003 and January 2004, Keathley experienced six separate hospital stays.

He will likely take medication for the rest of his life, but is reminded sometimes what the alternative might have been. He also undergoes blood tests every three months, and reports for CAT scans and X-rays twice annually. Those are to become annual after this summer.

It has been a long road to wellness for Mike Keathley, but with an outcome that he and his wife have always been confident would arrive.

Keathley said, "I'm alive today because of God, my doctors, and my wife."

When his oncologist recently told him he could not pronounce him 100 percent cured, but explained that he exhibited all the signs of a man who will make a total recovery, Keathley simply stated, "Never doubted it!"

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