Keith Downs

First post: Jun 10, 2021 Latest post: Jan 11, 2022
Thank you for visiting.  Over the last seven months we have received so much love and support from family, friends, colleagues, and strangers. This community of people has lifted up our family during this time. The prayers and support were so powerful, I told Keith that I could feel them surrounding us. People have continually shown their care and concern by sending cards, texts, calls, and emails. This page should have been created long ago, so those of you who wanted to check in but not feel like you're bothering us (P.S. You aren't) could easily do so.  But I never actually sat down to do it. I sincerely apologize for that.  Anyway, now that life has calmed down a bit, I will keep it updated.

This story begins in March of 2019...
Keith was very sick with what we thought was the flu. He quickly developed pneumonia with an extremely high fever. After 5 days and no response to the antibiotics, Keith was hospitalized. His blood counts were extremely off and no one was quite sure why his pneumonia was so bad. Luckily, they were able to get it under control and he came home. It took several months to regain his strength and energy. What we didn't know at this time, was that the severity of his illness was likely due to underlying causes. (Pneumonia is one of the ways that people with Multiple Myeloma die since their body cannot fight it off.)

Summer of 2019....
Keith injures his back with no apparent cause. No answers as to what happened. He sees a doctor in the fall who identifies a broken piece of vertebrae, but no other issues. No follow-up. (Myeloma eats away bones and weakens them.)

Winter 2019 - Summer 2020...
Keith experiences extreme fatigue, which we attributed to his crazy work/coaching schedule. He also begins having lots of hip and shoulder pain that became close to debilitating during the summer. He sees the doctor and receives cortisone shots for pain. Some relief is given, but it is short-lived.

Fall 2020....
By this time he is frustrated and in much pain. No answers have been found. He finally demands blood work thinking that he has Lyme Disease or something else. Little did we know what the tests were about to find.

November 16,2020....
Enough results are in. We sit in the doctor's office and get the news. Keith has Multiple Myeloma. The rest of this week will consist of diagnostic tests to determine staging and other specifics of his cancer along with a visit to a local oncologist at Cancer Care of York. Ultimately, the diagnosis is Stage 2 (there are only 3 for Myeloma). His kidneys are starting to be affected, and they are monitored closely to watch for kidney failure.  Within the next 2 weeks his treatment begins and we also connect with an oncologist at Johns Hopkins who will work in conjunction with his local oncologist.

December 2020-April 2021....
Keith's treatments were done locally and he only needed to travel to Hopkins for several visits. Cancer Care took excellent care of him. He tolerated the aggressive treatment regimen very well, which is a testament to how strong he is. By April, his numbers looked really good and he was on track to begin the testing phase for his stem cell transplant. Combined with the treatment he had received, this was thought to be the best chance for a long remission.

April/May 2021...
Keith  began travelling to Hopkins almost weekly for tests. At one point they drew 30 vials of blood! They leave no stone unturned when preparing for the transplant. During this time a CT scan showed an issue with his sinuses. It turned out to be an infection that needed to be surgically removed. Now the transplant will be moved back from June 2, to July 2. However, the results of the culture of the infection showed that there was not just 3 types of nasty bacteria present, but also a fungus. Fungal sinusitis is extremely dangerous, especially for people with compromised immune systems. Additionally, a CT scan showed that the infection was still present and had moved deeper. The doctors called us and he was immediately admitted to Hopkins. His stay lasted 6 days. During this time he was given powerful antibiotics and antifungal medications intravenously.  Unfortunately the antifungal medication was wreaking havoc on his kidneys. But they couldn't risk changing the medication at this point.  This was possibly the most difficult time for our family besides the initial diagnosis. A large team of doctors was working to determine what was causing the infection and how to best treat it. There was a major concern about the infection affecting his left eye, or worse, invading his brain. The latter would be life-threatening.  Fortunately, the MRI showed it was not invading the bone, brain, or eye and they were able to stop the IV antifungal and switch to a more kidney-friendly oral one. Keith was finally discharged home with a PICC line so he could continue to receive IV antibiotics at home. (I had to be taught to do this, what??!  But we got it!)

As if all of this wasn't stressful enough, while he was in the hospital his oncologist visited to inform us that the results of his most recent bone marrow biopsy revealed an increase in plasma (the cancerous ones) cells. His initial biopsy in April showed a very low number and now that was not the case. This means that more treatment is likely in his future before the stem cell transplant can take place.

As anyone who has had or been close to someone who had cancer knows, there are no guarantees. We take it one day at a time, one hurdle at a time. As someone told us in the beginning, "this is a marathon, not a sprint." Keith is strong and a definite fighter. Throughout this entire time he has continued working remotely (Thank you South Western for being so supportive!), taking his doctorate classes, and being involved at home. He would Zoom into meetings while receiving chemo infusions. I'm in awe and extremely proud of how he's dealt with everything on his plate! We have faith that he will beat this back into remission and enjoy many years with his family. 

I will update this page again once we know the next step in his journey.

Until then, our only need is continued prayers for effective treatment and an achieved remission.

Love to you all!!