Remembering Kenny Graves
“Helping young adults fight cancer today and live amazing lives tomorrow.”
When I decided to do something to help young adults facing cancer these are the words I felt best represented my mission. I thought of cancer as a speed bump, not the final word. I imagined I might be able to help others facing this life crisis because I believed they would go on to do amazing things with the rest of their cancer-free lives.
Unfortunately, not everyone gets to live a cancer-free life. One week ago the world lost 22-year-old Kenny Graves to Leukemia.
I only met Kenny once, but I would be honored to call him a friend. We chatted one day over a bag of red blood cells in the SCCA infusion center while his sweet dog Honey sat patiently in the corner. He was kind and open about his fight and accepting of his situation.
We don’t all make it through but we all deserve endless love and dignity while we fight. He gave us so much more than we could ever have given him.
The following are the words of Kenny’s sister and caregiver Cassy:
I don’t know how to start, or what to really say. All I know is I need to say something; spread some sort of word. The word is Cancer. At the age of 22, my older brother was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. He was never sick in his life until this ‘cancer’ decided to invade his bloodstream. After the first round of chemotherapy (7 days straight, 24 hours a day) his bone marrow biopsy showed him to be in remission. While the doctors worked to get Kenny on the list for a stem cell transplant at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, they continued to do maintenance chemo to ensure his remission. Once arriving into Seattle, and getting a bone marrow biopsy, remission showed inconclusive; thus came the relapse. While talking about various treatment options, Ken’s doctor proposed a research ‘anti-body’ that was supposed to make the chemotherapy more effective. Kenny agreed to the clinical trial… I mean who doesn’t want their treatment to be more effective? In turn, it is believed that this ‘anti-body’ basically mobilized the Leukemia, and brought it to surface of the skin. Giving him an even more rare case of Leukemia called ‘Leukemia Cutis’. It grows as ‘boils’ of some sort on the surface of the skin; starting small like a mole, growing into large boil-like bumps all over his body. They didn’t itch until the end, and only hurt if you bumped them, or scratched them. Kenny’s last bone marrow biopsy showed that his blood was 64% Leukemia just since his last treatment a month before.
Kenny was my best friend and brother. He taught me almost everything I know, and definitely influenced everything I did. My goal was always to make him proud, and I believe I did my part. Just 7 months and 15 days after being diagnosed, Kenny reluctantly succumbed to the cancer. He wanted nothing more than to live. In fact, he would tell me, “I just want to live!” One day, just before he passed, he said, ” I wanna live forever. ” and I replied, “I want you to live forever too, Bubby.” He said, ” but if I don’t… you have to forgive me.” There is nothing in the world that I wouldn’t forgive him for, especially something he tried so hard to control, but couldn’t. Such a pure and enlightening soul he was, and will forever live on to be.
For the two months leading up to his passing, I stayed with him in Seattle as his caregiver. I tried to make him as happy and as comfortable as possible. I feel like I did my job well, but I feel very incomplete without him. Cancer has taken my best friend, my brother, and my soul mate. It’s real, it’s there, and it hurts. I would never wish any sort of cancer on any person, EVER. It is ruthless, and it comes with intention. People know about cancer, but aren’t truly aware of the grueling and endless fight. The awareness needs to grow, and that’s why I am thankful for sites and other eye openers like this! Thank you for taking the time to hear a summed up version of my brother’s story, and I hope you spread the ‘word’.