Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Former BaliPure import Jennifer Keddy battling ovarian cancer

Former BaliPure import Jennifer Keddy battling ovarian cancer
by rick olivares

Former BaliPure import Jennifer Keddy flew back home to Montana from Wiesbaden, Germany in December of 2017 to get a medical checkup, she was a little worried. Before her second stint in Germany, she had played with BaliPure in the Premier Volleyball League and led the Purest Water Defenders to a second place finish. She also couldn’t wait to return home as she had been away from her family in the United States for about eight months.

Recharged from the short break, she flew back to play for VC Wiesbaden. Unfortunately, she prematurely terminated her contract after some medical issues. She had discovered a lump in her stomach. “There was no pain, but I looked pregnant and was very bloated. My body was a hard mass so I knew something wasn’t right,” she told this writer.

“I went to see a doctor and got an ultrasound. They told me I had a tumor and it was so big they couldn’t tell me where it started. After getting a MRI, I went straight to the doctor to look at the pictures and she wasn’t 100% sure but she told me that she was 98% sure it wasn’t cancerous. I had to make a decision – to stay in Germany which isn’t my home and where I have no family and friends save for my teammates. But everything is free. Or I fly home to have the surgery and post-operational things done with my family and friends by my side.”

After flying home to Montana, it was revealed that she had ovarian cancer. “This can’t be,” she added. “I’m only 26 years old.”

After college at California Polytechnic State University, Keddy went overseas to play professional volleyball. “It wasn’t an easy decision to make,” Jennifer told me last year a few weeks after she arrived in Manila to suit up for BaliPure where she tag teamed with Jang Bualee to back-stop the Purest Water Defenders.

When I first met Jennifer Keddy, it was at the tunnel entrance leading to the court of the Filoil Flying V Centre. Her new team, BaliPure had a match that day. It was her first game with her new team after arriving from Europe where she concluded a tournament.

A young girl, probably slightly older than Keddy’s then 25-years of age but who looked younger because she was like a foot smaller than the six-foot-four American, approached her. The volleyball fan asked for a photo to which Keddy obliged. “You’re so tall,” the girl enthused because Keddy seemed taller than her listed height. Keddy smiled.

Strength and conditioning coach Raymond Pili added, “Always in our prayers” to which Jennifer replied, “I should have eaten the balut.”

BaliPure team manager Paolo Turno also expressed words of support.

“People mistake loneliness and trying to adapt into a different environment for aloofness or not being interested,” she explained. “You try to take stock of a different climate, different culture, different situation, different language. You cannot process that overnight or within a week. And in the middle of everything you have to play volleyball.”

After struggling early on, Keddy and her new teammates turned on the jets and made a mad dash for the semi-finals and then the finals. Unfortunately, they came up short losing in a memorable three-game series to Pocari Sweat.

In the middle of that run, I frequently chatted with Jennifer about life in the Philippines, the NBA (she’s a Cleveland Cavaliers fan), food, and volleyball. It took a while to get into the swing of things but when she did, she began to enjoy her stint here. In one of her last few nights in Manila, the team closed the tournament with a dinner at a restaurant in San Juan where we spoke for about 15 minutes. “I really appreciate this team. They made me feel very much welcome and I appreciate that.”

Now back at home after an operation to remove the tumor, she is undergoing chemotherapy. Keddy’s family turned to “gofundme” to help with all the medical expenses. “It was actually my mom’s idea to start the ‘gofundme’ page. I had no idea what it was and didn’t expect much to come from it. Then all of a sudden there was so much support and so many donations I was amazed and touched so I am thankful for everyone.”

Keddy described the treatment routine: “I’m doing chemo and the acronym for my chemo is called BEP for Bleomysin, Etoposide, and Cysplatin. My chemo regimen is three rounds with each round lasting three weeks. One round looks like this; week one, chemo Monday through Friday, 4.5 hours each time. Week two, chemo on Tuesdays only and week three chemo Tuesday only.”

Her BaliPure coach, Roger Gorayeb posted a message of support on Keddy’s Facebook page, “Me and your teammates will always be here for you, Jen,” he wrote. Teammate Jorelle Singh added, “Love you, Ate Jenny. Keep on fighting.”

If anyone would like to offer words or even send donations, they can reach out to Jennifer Keddy’s Facebook page or the GoFundMe page: Help Jennifer Keddy Spike Cancer.


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