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"What's important is that you be the best person you can be in this world. You want to leave a positive influence on generations to come."
Those were a few of the final words from a 2010 phone interview I did as a sports reporter for The Journal News with Clarkstown and Condors swim coach Keith Furey.
Keith was a breath of fresh air for me as I embarked on an uphill journey in a very male-dominated industry after graduating from college. While other high school coaches harped upon my inexperience in the field, Keith immediately saw my potential.
He took it upon himself the first day we met to teach me the ins and outs of the sport of swimming. In little time at all, I quickly learned that he was an icon in Rockland County; not only was he a “family” man, devoted to his wife, five children and grandson, but was an inspiration to the community as an entrepreneur of his own engineering firm, as a Boy Scout volunteer for Troop 79, and as a parishioner of St. Augustine’s.
And in just a few weeks of knowing him, he shared his secret with me. In 2009, after experiencing persistent gastrointestinal issues, he had been diagnosed with cancer.
After almost a year in remission, his cancer returned in August 2010 and was deemed widespread by his doctors. After meeting me though and learning that my dad was also a cancer survivor, he didn’t want to keep it a secret anymore. He wanted to share his story with the community and give others the strength to battle on.
On April 25, 2011, my first article about Keith’s diagnosis - featuring
anecdotes from his himself, as well as family, friends and peers - was published in The Journal News and received exceptional praise. It hit the community hard, to know that someone with such positivity was struggling with so much heartache.
I witnessed Keith be a true hero the day of the boys sectional swim meet at Felix Festa Middle School. Besides working all day at his engineering firm, he had endured another cycle of chemotherapy and was still being fed medicine through a portable pump during the meet. Through everything though, his smile never faded once that day.
My heart broke in June of 2011 when I was asked
at work to write his obituary.
Keith, at the age of 48, had succumbed around 2:30 am in his New City home, surrounded by his close-knit family. While my editor considered it an honor to be asked to do so, I was physically sick to my stomach. Sitting at my computer with tears rolling down my face, I had to find the strength to write about a man who had become my mentor and my friend.
This past November, we found out from doctors that my younger sister Diana was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I began thinking about the journeys, both good and bad, that those around me with cancer had endured, including my dad, my mom’s friend, my best friend’s aunt, my cousins’ grandmother, and of course Keith’s. I could only hope that Diana would come out stronger mentally, physically and emotionally than when she went in, and thankfully she did. Her 20th birthday in March of this year gave us another reason to celebrate, as she was declared cancer-free after just 6 treatments by her doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering.
Relay for Life is important to our family for all of these reasons. I relay for
those who are still here to share their story - like Diana and my dad - and
those who have left us too early - like Keith - to be a part of God’s bigger
plan. Please join myself and my family and friends this year in our Relay for Life efforts and in support of the American Cancer Society.
For more information on preventative care, staying healthy, support
& more, please visit: http://www.cancer.org/
To join Relay for Life, visit: http://www.relayforlife.org/
My name is Kristina and I'm the founder of Love Struck. Read about how Love Struck came to be, see how I make it happen or just read a random thought I just might have! Anything can happen at our blog & I wouldn't have it any other way! It's time to get Love Struck, and what better way to start than right here!