How a Man Defied the Odds, Overcame Cancer & Became a Father with the Help of Hackensack Meridian Health

In the mid-1980s, a 20-year-old electrician named John Keane battled Stage IV testicular cancer at Hackensack Meridian Health (HMH) and walked away victorious. Keane had received the most aggressive chemotherapy treatments that had been administered by the health system at the time.

However, despite winning his battle with cancer, there were still lasting problems that Keane was told he’d have to deal with. Due to the stress brought onto Keane’s body from the cancer and his wife’s own issues with fertility, the couple was told they’d never be able to have children. 

The couple didn’t let that stop them, however, and defied the odds. “ We then had four children over the next five years,” Keane reminisced.

32 years later, on what was seemingly a normal day of work, Keane began experiencing dizziness and a lack of energy. “I felt like if I were to fall down, I wouldn’t be able to get back up,” said Keane.

Keane soon went in for testing for what he believed was a heart problem, but it took a turn for the worse when he found out that his hemoglobin level dropped to 3.8 grams per deciliter (the normal level for men being 13 grams per deciliter). Keane was told by physicians that he was bleeding internally.

Upon hearing this news, Keane returned to a familiar face in Hackensack Meridian Health, where he was diagnosed with Stage IIIB esophageal cancer. When diagnosed, the optimism for Keane’s future became very bleak. 

“They told my wife initially that, because I had received so much chemotherapy in my previous cancer, the chance of response to treatment was low, and gave me a 1 percent chance of survival,” Keane remembered.

With surgical intervention, chemotherapy and the tireless work from HMH oncologist, Dr. Tracy Proverbs-Singh and the entire HMH staff, Keane was able to overcome the odds once again. Just as his desire to start a family motivated him throughout his journey in the 1980s, he did the same three decades later, now wanting to see it grow.

“I said, ‘God, let me just live to see one grandchild,’” recounted Keane, looking back at the battle he faced. “Just let me see one grandchild.” Now, Keane has five grandchildren that he was told he would never live to see, defying the odds yet again.