In part two of our Valentine’s Day blog series, we are honoring Keanna. Keanna was a happy and free-spirited angel with nothing but love and laughter to spread to others around her. She was the strongest person anyone knew, and fought her battle with nothing but grace and resilience. The Reaching for the Cure team, “Keanna’s Angels” participates each year and fundraises in her memory – until a cure is found.
“Keanna Bree Sviland was a beautifully vibrant and free soul who loved to laugh, give, and have fun. She touched the lives of so many without realizing it and was a true cancer warrior- and still is. Though she passed away in March of 2013 at age 15, she remains with us today in both subconscious and conscious ways. Keanna and I were always close, but when she was diagnosed with cancer in 2008, we became closer and did almost everything together. We would always be cousins, but we became true best friends in every sense of the word. We were incredibly close, and as I write this I feel that she continues to stay with me.
One time we were on vacation in Palm Springs, one of her favorite places to go because it meant swimming and spending countless hours with our ginormous family, she turned to me and said something that remains with me to this day. We were walking by the pool and she looks at me and says, “I think we’re soulmates. I mean, I don’t know what we would do without each other, it would be so weird.” I looked back at her and said, “Yeah I can’t imagine it.” It was just another one of those small conversations but as the sky turned pink that day and she said that simple statement to me, I couldn’t shake it and I couldn’t imagine a world without my best friend in it. Losing her was unfathomable, but somehow she gave me and several others her strength to get through each day with memories such as that one.
Keanna also loved to spend time with her family, in a pure and unselfish way. She cherished any time she would have playing video games with her brothers, or watching her nieces and nephews. She also LOVED babies; when her niece Emily was born she loved holding her and playing with her as much as possible. She of course enjoyed spending time with the little ones and never failed to crack a smile when they were around. Going to amusement parks was also an activity that Keanna enjoyed thoroughly because she always had such a blast on the biggest, scariest rides. Before she loved thrill rides, she was a little apprehensive to going on ‘scary’ rides because they were intimidating. Being about a year and a half older and loving the rides already, I pushed her to try the upside-down California Screamin ride at California Adventure. Frankly I was surprised she agreed, but she did and when we got off the ride she had a huge smile on her face. From then on she absolutely loved going on the crazy rides, and was always my ride buddy. We would go with her brothers and my brother, and anyone else who was up for the challenges.
Having to stay home to rest a lot, Keanna would do particular activities- especially with her mom, Maryanne. One common activity was baking- and Maryanne would get every single ingredient needed for whatever Keanna wanted to bake, or make (if it was a craft). Keanna would then make a cake for someone’s birthday, or even for a holiday just to be festive- she was that kind of person- in the best way. Even when in pain, she would find a way to have a good time and manage to make me (and so many others) laugh like crazy.
One of my favorite memories with Keanna revolves around one of our usual summer sleepovers. We had decided to try and pull an all-nighter, and were challenged by one of Keanna’s older brothers (he didn’t think we could pull it off, so naturally that made us more determined). We somehow managed to stay up all night (we watched the sun rise from the living room) and did so by making crazy, delirious videos of us singing along to “Tik Tok” by Kesha and Avril Lavigne songs. We also ate as much junk food as possible and talked about boys and life. I still have the videos to this day and will forever be grateful for all of our sleepovers, but keep an extra special place in my heart for that one.
It’s hard to talk about these memories as wonderful and memorable as they are, because they remind us that we won’t be able to make new ones. It’s a hard truth to come to terms with, even 5 years after she passed, because her physical absence remains.
Though it is difficult to talk about, it’s also incredibly important because these memories, photos, and videos are what remains of Keanna, making her a real person and not just another statistic.
Her story and attributes keep the fight against cancer alive as she is a constant reminder of why we need to fund research geared towards finding multiple cures.”
Join us as we work toward a tomorrow where all children are able to pursue their full measure of happiness without the burden of cancer. Your gift powers hope.