While it’s common for breast cancer to run in families, the experience of Maysville, Kentucky, resident Chrystie Keenan, one of the breast cancer survivors chosen to participate in the Kentucky Oaks 136 Survivors Parade, seems more than uncommon.  It’s pretty extraordinary!

 Keenan and her twin sister Connie Little are both breast cancer survivors.  Keenan’s twin sisters-in-laws also battled breast cancer, and her niece is currently undergoing treatment for the disease.  Having so many diagnosed cases of breast cancer in one family has taught Keenan and her female relatives the importance of regular check ups and never taking anything for granted.

"We want everyone out there to do what it takes to catch the disease early,” said Keenan. “After all, it’s not a fluke. Never assume it cannot affect your family." 

Keenan’s diagnosis did come as a surprise to her. Four years ago she went to the doctor for a routine appointment, including a mammogram, and the examination produced signs of a possible tumor in her breast.  A follow-up sonogram confirmed what Keenan never imagined was possible.

“In that moment, I thought to myself, there is no chance the tumor could be malignant,” said Keenan. “But, the doctors knew it was cancer at first glance.”

Keenan immediately found a reputable surgeon specializing in breast cancer, and had a lumpectomy on Valentine’s Day in 2006. While there was no sign that the cancer had spread to Keenan’s lymphatic system, she did undergo months of debilitating chemotherapy and radiation treatments to stop the cancer in its tracks. Keenan completed her treatments in October of the same year and has been cancer-free since. 

Given her family’s history and her own experience battling breast cancer, Keenan was excited to be voted as one of the participants in this year’s Kentucky Oaks 136 Survivors Parade.

“As soon as I found out by Churchill Downs that I would be marching in the parade, I hung up the phone and screamed with excitement!”

To secure a spot in the parade, Keenan stumped for votes with the help of a Facebook fan page, and significant publicity from her local newspaper, The Ledger Independent, and local radio station WFTM-FM.

“Without them, I would never have made it to the parade, and for that, I want everyone to know how amazing this opportunity truly is. Events like this one will draw even more attention to our disease, helping to raise more money for research, ultimately saving lives.”

As to what she’s looking forward to on Kentucky Oaks day, Keenan says, “it’s the camaraderie with the other survivors. We are all here for the same reason and know what we each went through along the way.”