Bill McKeeman was diagnosed with primary myelofibrosis in September, 2015. He had presented sporadically with a low red blood cell (RBC) count and low hemoglobin levels for a few years, but in 2015, the anemia was persistent, and he suffered from general fatigue. A bone marrow biopsy confirmed the presence of fibrotic disease, and he carried a somewhat common mutation in the Janus-associated kinase 2 (JAK2) gene. When told that this disease affected less than 1 in 100,000 people, he joked that he had always thought he was 1 in a million.
Upon diagnosis, Bill required blood transfusions about every 4-5 weeks to maintain his hemoglobin levels above 8.5 mg/dL. Over time however, the disease progressed and he needed packed RBCs on an almost weekly basis. He also had low white blood cell and platelet counts that complicated his ability to fight infection and required stopping anticoagulant therapy.
Bill McKeeman was a vibrant, funny man. He was known for his dry, quick wit, that coupled with an uncanny ability to keep a straight face, left those who didn’t know him uncertain of whether he was serious or joking. Those who knew him always recognized and enjoyed his humor. The wonderful nurses in the local hospital infusion room loved to have him as a patient because by the time they started his second unit of packed RBCs, he would have them laughing and enjoying their time with him.
His wit was as dry as his love for his family was deep. He gave his time and love generously and unconditionally to his wife, his children and grandchildren, his siblings and his many nieces and nephews. He was unselfish and always put others interests ahead of his own.
A native of Indiana, he loved basketball, but also enjoyed watching and playing softball, baseball and golf. He was an ardent supporter of women’s athletics, and he had coached a women’s softball team for nearly 15 years.
Myelofibrosis ultimately eroded Bill’s energy and his quality of life, but it never diminished his wit, his ability to laugh at himself or to make others laugh, and it never compromised his love for his family. He gave up his fight against this horrible disease during the summer of 2017, and he died peacefully at home on August 10, 2017.
Contributed by Jennifer Acker
These represent first person accounts of real people living with Essential Thrombocythemia, Polycythemia Vera and Myelofibrosis. It does not represent the views or opinions of anyone associated with the MPN Research Foundation. Please consult your doctor before taking any action to manage your health.