VERO BEACH, Fla. — He served his country. He’s a young father to a baby girl.
Just when a local Marine veteran thought he would be back in school, working and enjoying his growing family, he is gearing up for one of his biggest fights and challenges yet.
He’s facing stage 3 Melanoma that has spread to his lymph nodes.
“It can happy to anybody. You think at 25 this isn’t something you’d have to worry about,” said Aaron Keene.
Thursday night, at least 100 people showed up to a fundraiser at Vero Bowl to help relieve some of the financial stresses that come with the diagnosis.
He has bills that need to be paid and surgeries that keep coming.
“It’s humbling to see everyone come out,” Keene said.
It was not long after his first deployment as a Marine that Keene started feeling sick.
“After my first deployment I actually had a seizure,” Keene said. “The doctors could never tell me what happened.”
His symptoms did not go away.
“After I came back, I noticed there was a growth on my back that was just getting larger and larger. I was having fainting periods where I would just get so weak I couldn’t stand up anymore.”
Finally, a diagnosis came back as stage 3 Melanoma.
“It definitely hit hard. It was scary. I knew that I had cancer. I knew that it would be bad, but I didn’t know it would be seven surgeries bad,” Keene described. “I decided to take some time off work until the surgeries stopped, and the surgeries never stopped.”
That means money is not coming in. He has a wife at home taking care of their brand new baby girl, who is not even 2-months old.
“He can’t work. He can’t drive,” described Aaron’s dad, Vern Keene.
He knows his son is tough but feels this might be his toughest challenge to date.
“It’s hard because he doesn’t feel as strong as he used to and he’s tired of doing all the treatments,” Vern said.
“There were some miserable times in the military. In Israel, we were living in tents. I didn’t shower the entire time I was there,” Keene said. “This is a little bit different. I had a blast when I was miserable in the Marine Corps. This is less fun, but at least I have my wife and my baby.”
Keene’s diagnosis, however, is already raising awareness and encouraging others to visit their doctors. In fact, Keene says he might have saved his own father’s life.
After Keene’s diagnosis, his father went to a doctor for a check-up and was also diagnosed with Melanoma. “Luckily for him, it was super early,” Keene said, requiring minimal treatment.
He hopes his story will make others take skin and sun protection seriously.
“If you think there is something wrong with you, go get it taken care of,” Keene said.
If you want to help contribute to fundraising efforts to support Keene and his family, Keller Williams is collecting donations at their Vero Beach location at 3775 20th Street.