“Everyone knows I’ve had breast cancer. I want them to know I’m a survivor,” says Jean “Bean” (her nickname) Keagle, a two-time breast cancer survivor and Ocean City resident, who wants to get the word out that “the Cancer Society was there for me with any questions I had and any services I needed. I’d wake up in the middle of the night and call their 24-hour line at 3 a.m.”
Diagnosed at age 44 in 2001, Bean had a double mastectomy followed by chemotherapy and a clinical trial of Taxol. “I was fine for nine years,” she says.
When she was rediagnosed (she felt a lump under her armpit during a self-exam), “I called the Society’s line to ask them to find someone who matched me, who was my age, and had a cancer just like mine, which is rare. It usually metastasizes to the lung or liver,” says Bean, who is a nurse. “They found someone for me to talk to in Virginia.” Those conversations helped “rest my mind,” she says.
Even before her first diagnosis, Bean was involved with the American Cancer Society. Both her mother and father had breast cancer, as well as all the women on her mother’s side. “I joined the Society’s Relay For Life because of the research the Society funds,” explains Bean, who does not have the BRCA breast cancer gene and hopes that one day researchers will know what caused her family’s cancer.
Active in Ocean City’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer for more than a decade and a member of the organizing committee, she describes her Making Strides friends and fellow cancer fighters as tight knit and welcoming. “The camaraderie is wonderful. Since Ocean City is a resort town, a lot of women come from Easton, Cambridge and Baltimore for the walk to make it a weekend.”
Bean has also served as a Look Good, Feel Better volunteer leader and, at the time of this interview, was baking 500 pink ribbon cookies with her friends for the Poor Girls Fishing Tournament, which benefits breast cancer research.
“I want women to take care of themselves,” is Bean’s message. “There’s a lot we can do to help the Cancer Society find a cure. I want the money raised to ensure that future generations do not have to go through what I went through. Get your mammograms and do your self-checks!” she says.