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Fighting Cancer with Dad by Her Side | Kimberly's Story

Hodgkin lymphoma survivor Kimberly Keating and her father dancing at her wedding

A father-daughter bond is one that remains sacred for a lifetime, and when a father witnesses his daughter fight for her life with power and grace, that bond is tightened like never before.

As a college field hockey player, Kimberly Keating Mahoney thought she was in great health. She felt some fatigue but nothing beyond what she considered to be normal symptoms of juggling schoolwork, a Division I sport, and a collegiate social life. It wasn’t until an x-ray for a sports-related injury in November 2011 that Kim realized her diagnosis would go beyond a broken collarbone.

The x-ray showed a mass in her chest, and five days later further testing confirmed she had Hodgkin lymphoma.

Kim immediately sought treatment at Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center. Her oncologist was John H. Glick, MD, who devised a treatment plan of eight rounds of chemotherapy, followed by proton therapy radiation.

Finding Support When She Needed It Most

When it comes to a cancer diagnosis, having a strong support system can be crucial for recovery—and being a middle sibling of 10, Kim had no shortage of support from her family.

“When you’re battling cancer, it’s kind of like your life is on pause,” Kim shared. “Being a part of a big family, everything is moving fast all the time. So being at a standstill while everything around me was moving quickly was one of the hardest parts. But I had a lot of levity in my siblings and parents.”

When a member of the Keating family goes through a trying time, they all go through it together.

“No parent wants to see their child suffer. Seeing Kim go through this experience and be so strong and maintain her humor and dignity and presence – it was inspiring,” shared Kim’s father, Pierce. “I think all nine other children benefited from seeing what a rock star Kimmy was.”

Surviving Cancer as a Family

Thankfully, Kim’s treatment plan and the love from her family worked. Since May 2012, she has remained cancer free.

With a full house, it is rare to get parent-child one-on-one time, and even though it wasn’t by choice, Kim and Pierce are thankful for those months that they were able to share together—living under the same roof and spending time together—just the two of them.

"What was most meaningful to me throughout this process with Kimmy was that we would take daily walks. When you’re tired – her because of the treatment and illness, me because I’m just tired – your defenses are down, and I found that we had conversations that you may not normally have with a 20-year-old,” Pierce said.

Life After Cancer

Kim’s cancer experience inspired her to pursue a nursing degree. She now works at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), just across the street from the adult clinics of the Abramson Cancer Center at the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine.

“Every time I am at the Abramson Cancer Center it feels like a lifetime ago that I was a cancer patient. Luckily, so far everything has been good news. Dr. Glick gives me a smile and a hug and no matter how many times I’ve heard I’m cancer-free, it still gives me the chills,” Kim shared.

The Abramson Cancer Center is a place where Kim has had many major life experiences. On the five-year anniversary of her diagnosis, Kim’s now-husband, Kyle, proposed to her at the cancer center. He wanted to make one of the worst days of her life become one of the best. And for her father Pierce, walking Kim down the aisle is a day that was meaningful for more reasons than one.

"I was so proud walking Kimmy down the aisle—proud of how she overcame cancer and of the person that she is. This experience has fortunately become a chapter in her life, not defining her life. That is really special for me,” Pierce shared.

Valuing Her Care

The entire Keating family stepped up to the plate and rallied around Kim—and the incredible doctors and nurses at Penn Medicine rounded out this extraordinary support system.

"The care and concern we received at the Abramson Cancer Center was nothing short of amazing,” shared Pierce. "We felt we were in such great hands. They made an awful thing bearable.” He continued, “My wife, Katie, is a nurse herself and a mother of 10. It was awe-inspiring to see her provide the nurturing Kimmy needed."

Through the challenges of a cancer experience, the Keatings recognized what is most important—family.

To all of the amazing dads out there, Happy Father’s Day!

About This Blog

The Focus on Cancer blog discusses a variety of cancer-related topics, including treatment advances, research efforts and clinical trials, nutrition, support groups, survivorship and patient stories.

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