Get to Know Us: Mary Keenan, Dana-Farber, and the Jimmy Fund Telethon (Q+A)

Get to Know Us: Mary Keenan, Dana-Farber, and the Jimmy Fund Telethon (Q+A)

This month, Expect Miracles Foundation is extremely proud to showcase our very own Development & Events Coordinator Mary Keenan—a team member who has embodied the true mission of our foundation: to inspire hope in the face of disease.  


After her cancer diagnosis in 2016, Mary has recently begun to share her story and speak about her unique journey. Most recently, she was featured on the Jimmy Fund Telethon where she spoke about her experience at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and her hopes for other young people facing a diagnosis.  


Read below for our exclusive Q+A with Mary!



 Q: Like every cancer survivor, your story is entirely unique. Could you tell us about yourself and what brought you to Dana-Farber and the Jimmy Fund Telethon?


MK: I was diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma Breast Cancer at 28 years old in 2016. Despite the uncertainty of the initial diagnosis, I knew for certain that I wanted to be treated at Dana-Farber. From the moment I stepped in the door, I felt immediately at ease and truly in the best of hands. I will never forget meeting my oncologist for the first time—her unwavering confidence and kindness gave me strength and hope. I found support everywhere around me, from the patient coordinators, to the parking attendants and volunteers. Everyone seemed to know how to brighten even the darkest of days. For that, I will always be grateful.


 Given the incredible care and support I received at Dana-Farber, both emotionally and medically, I jumped at the chance to share my story at the radio telethon. It was an amazing opportunity to share the life-saving work Dana-Farber does while providing hope to someone in the thick of a cancer diagnosis. 


 Q: What are you hoping the impact is/was of participating in the telethon and sharing your story with the world?

MK: By sharing my story, I hope people will donate to charities like Expect Miracles Foundation because the work we do is so important.  "By supporting innovative cancer research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center,  we are bringing new hope to cancer patients all over the world! 

I also hope that by speaking about my experience, I can bring hope to someone newly diagnosed or in the midst of their cancer journey. I know how overwhelming a cancer diagnosis can be—the treatments, side effects, surgeries, complications, and of course, the unknown.  So much of that unease is wondering if your life will ever be back to ”normal” again. The truth is, after facing cancer you discover a new normal. It takes time to discover it, and to feel okay within its bounds—but I promise one day, you will. 


Q: What are some of the unique hurdles of being a young adult cancer survivor that most people don’t know about?

MK: Oh my, where do I begin? Among the multitude of challenges that accompany a diagnosis, the financial impact is certainly one of the most difficult hurdles.

When I was diagnosed, I was working in Rhode Island and being treated in Boston. Because of the distance and time that I had to dedicate to commuting, receiving treatment, and recovering, I was forced to resign from my full-time position. Luckily, I had an incredible support system in my life. I felt so fortunate to have that foundation underneath me as I was unable to work. For those who don’t have that support system, the financial impact can be devastating.  

Emotionally and interpersonally, there are many hurdles as well. Before I was diagnosed, I was young and carefree, living my life alongside my friends and peers—all of us eager for the future and the joy that lay ahead. Once I was diagnosed, I found it difficult to know what to say or how to relate to my friends anymore. It takes time to adjust to the change—all you can do is try your best.

This is why I strongly believe in investing in organizations like Expect Miracles Foundation. Not only do we raise important funds for cancer research, we recognize that cancer is not free. Our Samfund programs recognize how little support there is for young adults struggling financially once cancer treatments end. By providing financial and emotional support we help young adults much like myself get on their feet again.

Q: What do you hope people take away from your story as a young adult cancer survivor?

MK: I hope to bring awareness to young adult cancer survivors, whose situations aren't as often talked about in the cancer community. Getting cancer at any point in life is crippling but when you’re young and just beginning to start your life, a diagnosis can derail your visions for the future. I want other young adults facing a diagnosis to know that they are not alone and that they are seen, heard, and understood.  


Q: What does hope mean to you and how can others create a ripple effect as you did?

MK: Hope to me is trying to remain optimistic, even in the most trying of times. Anyone who is enduring a challenging time in life can create a ripple effect—by sharing your story, you may become someone else’s inspiration.

Q: How did your experience play a role in your decision to work for Expect Miracles Foundation? And how does your current work impact the cancer community?

MK: After a cancer diagnosis had such a large impact on my life, I knew my career path was meant to change. I love that Expect Miracles raises funds for cancer research AND young adult cancer survivors through our Samfund programs. These are areas I’m extremely passionate about. With my current role as Development & Events Coordinator, I am responsible for helping to plan our major events. These events raise significant money for our life-saving and life-changing mission. I work everyday knowing that what I am doing is making a difference—there is no feeling like it!

We applaud Mary for all of her hard work & dedication to inspire others in the cancer community. We look forward to all of her future contributions to those in need and her continued ability to ignite hope for anyone facing a diagnosis. No story, act of kindness or charity is too small—together we can create change.

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