Prostate Cancer Survivor
A match made in heaven
Chuck and Hannah Keels describe their love story as nothing short of miraculous. They have provided hope to each other and many others through their credo: Get up and live!
People who meet Chuck Keels now have a hard time believing he was diagnosed with Stage IV prostate cancer in 2015 but, at the time, it was a life-threatening diagnosis. He was told he had three months to live and that hospice was the only option.
“I was a 50-year old single dad of two boys,” he said. “I gave away all of my belongings in Phoenix and planned to take my two boys back home to Ohio. On the day we were supposed to fly out, I heard ‘pop!’ and hit the floor. The trip was off.”
In the ambulance on the way to the hospital, every bump was excruciating. The ambulance took him to a different hospital – not the one where he’d received his grim diagnosis – and the doctors there ran their own tests.
“I had a compression fracture as a result of the cancer metastasizing to my bones. But along with that bad news came some very good news from a medical team put together just for me. A hospitalist, oncologist and two spinal surgeons told me they wanted to fight my prostate cancer, and they had a plan that started with two surgeries the next day. I would have one to stop the testosterone production in my body and the other to insert a port for chemotherapy.”
The surgeries went perfectly, and as he was lying in the recovery room, he remembers it got weirdly cold.
“I thought perhaps someone had left the big double doors open, but they were closed. I looked to the left and saw a man with a white scarf, beard and a brown robe. He put his hand on my shoulder. That day, all my pain stopped. I’d like to say my faith got me through it, but I wasn’t a particularly religious person.”
After three months of his prescribed six months of chemotherapy, his doctor said his scans looked like those of a healthy guy. His recovery continued, and he focused on healthy eating, juicing, using essential oils and exercising. He also surrounded himself with loving and supportive people.
“I started getting phone calls from friends, and friends of friends, who wanted to know how I beat Stage IV cancer. I began to share my story on Facebook about how taking an active role in the things I could control helped me mentally and physically. I wrote a book titled Hi…I’m Chuck, and even had a business card made that said “Cancer Coach.” Before long, I had thousands of followers, something that almost prevented me from meeting Hannah.”
Two days after Chuck’s recovery room experience, Hannah was moving with her husband and four boys to Phoenix. It was a huge move — new house, new school, new job and all that goes with that. Six months after the move, her husband left her. She cried for three months straight, then found a lump in her breast. She was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer at 42. A month after being diagnosed, her divorce was final. A month after that, she had a mastectomy and the next month returned to her job as an operating room nurse.
Unfortunately, her cancer progressed to Stage IV, and she lost her job when she wasn’t able to continue working in the same capacity because of the medications she was taking. A year later, her best friend passed away unexpectedly.
“I felt the weight of so much loss,” she said. “I was looking for the lessons in it. I prayed about it and began writing a book to help work through my feelings. I’d never published a book, so a friend offered to connect me with her cousin who had just published a book about his cancer journey. I had a hard time connecting with him on Facebook, so I messaged him.”
To Chuck’s surprise, Facebook capped his friend list at 5,000, so Hannah couldn’t friend him. Her message was automatically moved to a different mailbox, and he just happened to check it 30 days later.
He apologized for the delayed response to her message and suggested they get together for coffee. Hannah, however, had just left for an extended vacation in The Netherlands to visit family. She agreed to meet when she returned.
But instead of waiting for her to get home, they began messaging. And texting. And video chatting.
According to Hannah, they hit it off instantly.
“He made me laugh. We had so much in common — our kids, our faith, cancer. One night before we hung up, he hinted that I was the one for him, and he said, ‘Goodnight, Mrs. Keels.’ We hadn’t even met in person!”
That didn’t last long. He picked her up at the airport and they were basically inseparable. Six weeks later they were engaged; six weeks after that they were married.
Chuck helped Hannah publish her book, Faith Like Skin. Just one month after their honeymoon, they began thinking of formalizing the coaching Chuck had started. After much research, they created Living Hope Cancer Foundation (getupandlive.org), a 501(c)(3). It’s a forum for creating a positive spiritual mindset when you have cancer.
“We have used our own experiences to help people make a personal plan that coincides with a medical plan,” Chuck explained. “Aside from supporting the need for second opinions, we leave the medical part to the experts. A personal plan is something you need from the minute you get that diagnosis. Even driving home in the car that first day, most people are wondering what they do with this new information they just received.”
“It isn’t often your caregiver knows exactly how to help,” he laughed. “But we are here to help each other at different times in our lives, and I set a goal to be the best caregiver I could be.”
Their advice to others: Get up and live!