MyLastingImpression Keith Murphy
What would go through your mind if you were faced with a blood cancer diagnosis?
Would you face your diagnosis with fear… or hope?
Keith Murphy, from Dungannon, lives for the outdoors. He is an adrenaline fiend, frequently running marathons, climbing mountains and cycling across Ireland. He lives for a tough challenge – the feeling of not being able to achieve something, fuels him even more.
In 2013, Keith was preparing for his first triathlon. He was 24 and a linesman with NIE Networks but he wasn’t the best swimmer. In order to compete, he had to learn to swim so he went to a local lake with his mates for his first training session. The next day, he began to feel unwell.
This was the beginning of six months of uncertainty for Keith, as he felt his health deteriorating. He frequently went to the doctor but his tests only showed inflammation on his internal organs. Soon the tasks he found easy, like climbing the stairs or walking his dog were getting more difficult. It wasn’t ideal for someone who thrives on physical challenges.
Keith returned to his GP in the New Year of 2014 and underwent another blood test. This time, something wasn’t right. He was transferred immediately to Belfast City Hospital and on 27th January 2014, Keith was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia. The very next day, his 25th birthday, he began chemotherapy.
Keith wasn’t afraid of his diagnosis. His positive nature meant he didn’t consider the fact that he might not beat blood cancer. He sailed through his first round of chemotherapy and was declared in remission in March 2014, even though he still had three months of treatment to complete.
In the summer of 2014, as soon as his treatment was finished, Keith returned to his active lifestyle. He ran the Belfast Half Marathon with a new Personal Best then undertook an intense winter’s training to complete the London Marathon and go onto complete a gruelling Ironman Triathlon competition in Lanzarote, which took almost 14 hours. On his return, he went on to compete in various local triathlons, obstacle course races and took second place at the Short Course Gran Fondo Cycling Race.
Keith was the epitome of strength until a routine check-up in November 2017 showed an abnormality in his bloods. His blood cancer had returned.
Keith immediately commenced treatment and found this round of chemotherapy excruciating. He was very, very sick – a stark contrast to the strong, athletic man his friends and family know. He persevered, powered by the hope of what he would be able to do when his treatment was finally over.
In April, Keith underwent a stem cell transplant in Dublin, and is continuing to recover. He is working to get back to his athletic best, but in the mean-time, his mates have been racing for him. This month, his colleagues at NIE Networks have been fundraising by completing a three day cycle totalling 315 kilometres around Northern Ireland, taking in depots in Campsie, Ballymena, Belfast, Craigavon, and Omagh.
For the 99 people diagnosed with blood cancer every month in Northern Ireland, they know the fear that comes with this news – will I live to see my daughter get married? Who will take care of my pets if I’m not here? Will I be able to run another marathon?
But there is hope.
Thanks to scientists based here in Belfast, funded by Leukaemia & Lymphoma NI, three out of four people in Northern Ireland diagnosed with blood cancer survive.
But for that one in four there’s still work to be done.
Please share our message far and wide.
With your help, we can fund research to help find a cure for blood cancer.