Grief without end: A father's words

Grief without end: A father's words

Leigh McKeown bravely took the microphone and bared his soul at a fundraising dinner.

On 22 September 2017, at a fundraising dinner in Sydney’s Southerland Shire, Leigh McKeown bravely took the microphone and bared his soul. He generously shared his speech as a lasting tribute to his son, giving insight into a cancer-dad’s pain.

At 2am on Monday 16th June, 2008, our beautiful Dylan James McKeown took his last breath, gained his angel wings and slipped away cradled in our arms. Dylan was our second born child, he had a mop of red hair and a cheeky smile that could melt hearts. We often thought he had been on this earth before with his wisdom and optimism.

The journey leading up to his passing is almost impossible to put into words. From his initial diagnosis of stage 4 neuroblastoma on February 1st 2007, until his final breath, the journey can only be described as conflicting, soul destroying and surreal.

Dylan defined the term “Super Hero” in every sense of the word, the courage, bravery and suffering he showed during his 17-month cancer journey, changed us as a family forever. There was procedure after procedure, chemo after chemo coupled with experimental chemo’s that caused unimaginable pain and suffering to the one you love and want to protect the most (your kids). There were weeks at a time in isolation, months bed ridden, endless needles, blisters, rashes, tubes, machines, severe nausea and vomiting, transfusions, seizures, biopsies, scans and sometimes all of them in one day.

As a family, the journey is something of a nightmare, where the smallest of wins were triumphantly celebrated and rejoiced and the setbacks, which were in abundance, were met with despair and helplessness. Throughout this journey the one thing that kept us strong was hope. Hope to witness my little boy grow into a man and live the life he deserved, but mostly hope for a cure. This is the very same hope that Shine Bright For The Kids and The Kids’ Cancer Project are now giving to families battling with childhood cancer. 

People like myself, wish with all my heart, we will find a cure for childhood cancers, and stop the pain and suffering inflicted on these young and innocent lives.

About 12 months after Dylan’s passing I had a dream, I always looked forward to Dylan’s visits in my dreams, but this one was so surreal it has stuck with me to this day.
Dylan and myself found ourselves on a roller coaster ride way up in the clouds, along for the ride was ‘Curious George’ a cartoon monkey who was Dylan’s favourite.
While on this roller coaster I was immersed with a sense of euphoria I have never, or will ever experience again. Dylan was roaring with laughter so hard, he had tears rolling down his face. We were reaching over the sides and grabbing clumps of clouds and throwing them at each other, the sun streamed on our faces as we floated up and around, all the time with Curious George jumping around causing Dylan fits of uncontrollable laughter.
The love I felt at that point of the dream, was truly the happiest moment of my life, at the height of this dream the roller coaster came to a sudden halt at which point an evil form appeared in front of us, my body was frozen and I couldn’t move, I watched on helplessly as this evil form took Dylan by the hand and told him to say goodbye to us, they then floated off into the clouds all the time Dylan looking back at me waiting for me to save him, but I couldn’t. 

"That most beautiful moment filled with love, happiness and jubilation had been destroyed by this evil form and I could do nothing to stop it."

By being at this event tonight, every one of you is enabling Shine Bright For The Kids and The Kids’ Cancer Project the opportunity to provide crucial funding for research programs, so one day in the near future this evil disease will no longer take away our most cherished.
I would like to thank Jane, Shine Bright For The Kids, and the rest of the hardworking people at The Kids’ Cancer Project for not only organising events and nights like this but also allowing me to honour my son’s legacy.

I especially want to thank Col Reynolds, Owen Finegan and the rest of the crew who I recently walked the Kokoda Track with which helped raise over $120,000 for The Kids’ Cancer Project. 

"As my Super Hero would say, ‘To infinity and beyond."