‘I’m a 17-year-old senior in high school … and I’m fighting for my life’

Watertown High School student-athlete faces cancer diagnosis

Senior+goalie+Joe+Keikian+%281%29+and+the+Watertown+High+boys+soccer+team+qualified+for+the+2014+MIAA+state+tournament.
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‘I’m a 17-year-old senior in high school … and I’m fighting for my life’

Senior goalie Joe Keikian (1) and the Watertown High boys soccer team qualified for the 2014 MIAA state tournament.

Senior goalie Joe Keikian (1) and the Watertown High boys soccer team qualified for the 2014 MIAA state tournament.

Courtesy of the Keikian family

Senior goalie Joe Keikian (1) and the Watertown High boys soccer team qualified for the 2014 MIAA state tournament.

Courtesy of the Keikian family

Courtesy of the Keikian family

Senior goalie Joe Keikian (1) and the Watertown High boys soccer team qualified for the 2014 MIAA state tournament.

By Amin Touri, Watertown HS, Watertown, Mass.

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High school seniors have a lot to be concerned about, with the college application process looming. Seniors that are also student-athletes often end up with twice the concerns and half the time.

 Chris Keikian (left) poses with his brother after Joe’s recent surgery.

Photo courtesy of the Keikian family
Chris Keikian (left) poses with his brother after Joe’s recent surgery.

But for Watertown High senior and boys’ soccer goalie Joe Keikian, a recent lymphoma diagnosis put any of those concerns in perspective, and frankly threw them out the window.

A lump on his neck that appeared in mid-October was the first sign, but it wasn’t immediately understood.

“I woke up one morning with a bump on my neck, and in the mirror the lump was huge,” Joe said. “I told my mom, ‘We need to get this checked out.’”

“A couple of days later, I hadn’t seen a doctor, just the [athletic] trainer. He thought it could be an inflamed gland, so I waited, but nothing changed.”

Joe was told to get it checked out by a doctor. His concerned pediatrician sent him to Boston Children’s Hospital on Oct. 23, where a nine-hour visit to the emergency room filled with blood tests and X-rays culminated in his first diagnosis.

“I was scared,” Joe said, “I didn’t know what to expect.”

Two doctors came into his room, and delivered the news: He had cancer.

“Time stopped for a second,’’ Joe said. “I couldn’t believe what they had just told me.”

A lymph node biopsy, a procedure in which piece of a lymph node is removed for examination, was performed Oct. 25 to assess the situation. The results brought the confirmation of Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

 Joe Keikian, senior goalie for the Watertown High School boys soccer team, began his chemotherapy treatments on Oct. 31, 2014.

Photo courtesy of the Keikian family
Joe Keikian, senior goalie for the Watertown High School boys soccer team, began his chemotherapy treatments on Oct. 31, 2014.

“They said it was curable, but there’s always risks,” Joe said. “After [the doctors] left, I cried my eyes out … I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t do anything.

“I’m a 17-year-old senior in high school, and instead of thinking about college, I’m fighting for my life.”

As a very healthy young man, however, Joe and his doctors are optimistic about his treatment. Joe began his first round of chemotherapy at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston on Oct. 31.

“They’re optimistic and expecting me to respond to the chemo very well,’’ he said. “[They are] hoping to destroy the cancer completely, so this won’t happen again in the future.”

The Keikian family has set up a fund to defray medical costs.

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