CHATHAM – It started as a sore throat that just wouldn't go away. The diagnosis of stage three cancer, with a 50-50 chance of survival, came in early August.
The treatment West Chatham resident Mike Keeler is now receiving has left him requiring nearly round-the-clock care, said his wife, Wendy Sequin. A 52-year-old fishermen and landscaper who more recently helped out in the family business, Sequin Cleaning, Keeler's illness has left him 70 pounds lighter and unable to work.
“There is a huge deficit in our income,” Sequin said.
The family has started a Go Fund Me Page – Mike Keeler's Fight Against Cancer at gofundme.com – and established a donation account at the Cape Cod Five Cent Savings Bank. Friends are also organizing a benefit pancake breakfast on Oct. 21. A family dodgeball game and pizza night at the community center Oct. 4 will also collect donations. Donations are also being accepted at the Chatham Village Market and Meservey's Hess Station.
Keeler's illness has reached deeply into the community, causing an outpouring of assistance and concern, not only because of his relatively young age, but also the reach of the couple's extended family. Between them they have six children, ranging in age from 6 to 28. The two youngest, Nicolas and Jacob, attend Chatham Elementary School and are in the local scouting troop, which has been “my cheerleaders,” said Sequin. Daughter Samantha is a sophomore at Monomoy Regional High School; the older three boys are grown and out of school.
Keeler's current treatment regime is aggressive, including seven weeks of chemo and radiation therapy at the Cape Cod Hospital Cancer Center. He is on many medications, can't eat and has been in and out of the hospital, the latest a three-day stay. Sequin said he pretty much needs 24-hour care.
“He can't be alone at all,” she said.
While the family has health insurance, it doesn't cover that sort of round-the-clock nursing assistance. The treatment has left him in pain, but its aggressive nature is necessary to combat the illness. Because the treatment has left his glands swollen, doctors say they won't know if it is successful for a few months, she said.
Taking care of her husband and the kids has left Sequin with little time for work. She said she's thankful that her staff has been able to carry on, but without the couple there it's been difficult to keep a grasp on the bills and hold schedules together. The diagnosis, unfortunately, came at the business's busiest time, but now that the fall is here it may slow down enough to get a grasp on things, she said.
“It's going to be a long road,” she said. If the treatment is successful, it will still be six to nine months before Keeler can go back to work. “I'm in survival mode right now,” she said.
It wasn't easy accepting help. But the couple, both of whom have lived in town for more than 25 years, has always been community-oriented, Sequin said, and gave back when others were going through difficult times. “We are a giving, compassionate and a genuine family,” she wrote on the Go Fund Me page. “We really need the help,” she said, to keep some semblance of balance in their lives. All of the donations will go toward medical costs and the family's financial needs, she said, and if there is any money left over it will be paid forward to another local cause.
“He stays so positive,” she said of Keeler. “He’s in it to win it.”
The family dodgeball and pizza night starts is schedule for 5 to 7 p.m. Oct. 4. Registration is free. All children must be accompanied by an adult. The Oct. 21 pancake breakfast will be held at St. Martin's Lodge on Old Harbor Road from 8:30 a.m. to noon.
Family Dodgeball and Pizza Night
Thursday, Oct. 4, 5-7 p.m.
Chatham Community Center
Sunday, Oct. 21, 8:30 a.m. to noon
St. Martin's Lodge
To donate to the Keeler-Sequin family, click here or send a check to the Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank Chatham branch with a notation that it is for the Mike Keeler Cancer Fund in the memo line.