In the midst of the joy after welcoming their second child and first son into the world, Adam and Keetha Blackburn were given devastating news.
Brain cancer was the diagnosis Keetha received, and that began an odyssey of trips back and forth to Wake Forest Baptist Health.
Through their difficult experiences these past few months, Adam Blackburn said, his family has expanded to include co-workers and, in some cases, people they don’t even know.
Adam Blackburn is a detective with the Iredell County Sheriff’s Office. He’s worked there 10 years. Keetha works at Denso, and like her husband is a long-term employee with 14 1/2 years of service.
Co-workers from both the Sheriff’s Office and Denso have rallied to the Blackburns’ side.
“People have asked me if they can do anything to help. There’s not been a day when I went to work that someone hasn’t offered to help,” Adam said. Keetha’s co-workers have also jumped in and offered to help in any way possible.
The help from the Sheriff’s Office extended to the Sheriff’s Office Auxiliary, a group of spouses and others that support each other in times of crisis.
On both sides, the co-workers have become extended family, Blackburn said.
Recently, Iredell Sheriff Darren Campbell approached Blackburn and asked him about a fundraiser.
“He said he knows there are a lot of expenses not covered by insurance. He said insurance doesn’t pay for gas for trips to Baptist. Insurance doesn’t pay co-pays,” Blackburn said.
Last Sunday, at the Harmony Christmas parade, Campbell told Blackburn a pancake breakfast was being planned for Saturday.
“It is overwhelming,” Adam said.
Campbell said the fundraiser is simply something a family member would do for another, and the Blackburns are family.
“When we know there is a need, we try to help as best we can,” he said. “Throughout this entire journey, Adam and Keetha have remained optimistic and have never wavered in their faith or thankfulness for even the smallest blessing.”
Blackburn said there’s no question that the support of his co-workers at the sheriff’s office and Keetha’s at Denso are the reason they’ve been able to deal with the circumstances dealt them earlier this year.
It was on Father’s Day, just weeks after giving birth to her second child, a healthy baby boy, that Keetha Blackburn awakened with an excruciating headache.
“She never had headaches before,” her husband, Adam Blackburn said. The headaches were accompanied by vomiting. After resting a bit, her headache went away, and Keetha figured it was due to having just given birth recently.
A few days later, Keetha went for a checkup with her doctor, who immediately told her the headache was not the byproduct of being a new mother, and immediately ordered a CT scan. On June 28, less than two weeks after Father’s Day, Adam said, they got a call at 7:30 in the morning. Adam said they were told to go immediately to Wake Forest Baptist Health because the CT scan showed a large mass on the left side of Keetha’s brain.
“They said they found a brain tumor but they didn’t know what it was,” Adam said. Keetha was sent to a specialist at Baptist, where she underwent an MRI. The test showed a mass about 5 centimeters in size.
Surgery was scheduled for July 5. Adam said they were told the surgery would take five hours but it was completed in three-and-a-half. The tumor was sent off for testing, and after several weeks of wondering, the Blackburns learned it was a level two astrocytoma — a cancerous brain tumor. Thankfully, the location of the tumor, on one side of Keetha’s head, made removal easier.
“The doctors told us it was the best of the worst news,” Adam said.
The next few weeks were a whirlwind of trips to Baptist for chemotherapy and radiation. While she’s finished with the initial rounds of treatment, she will be undergoing chemotherapy for the next several months.
Campbell said that while most of the family’s medical expenses are covered by insurance, some are not and those expenses will continue to grow as Keetha continues treatment.
That’s the reason behind the pancake and sausage breakfast Saturday. It will be held at Cool Springs Fire Department, located at 672 Mocksville Highway from 7-10 a.m.
Adam Blackburn said he believes the compassion from their now extended family is an example of faith in action. “The good Lord put these people in our lives,” he said. “It’s a blessing.”