HOWELL, New Jersey (WABC) -- One New Jersey family is carrying on their father's legacy through advocacy for Be The Match and educating people on the importance of joining the registry.
In March 2019, John Keegan went for routine blood work when doctors found he had a low white blood count. He was diagnosed with Myelodysplastic Syndrome and by June it had quickly progressed to Acute Myeloid Leukemia.
John and his family learned his best chance for a cure was through a bone marrow transplant. While John underwent intense chemotherapy and radiation his three sons joined the Be The Match registry.
My dad was my role model, my influence.," son Ryan Keegan said. "He was the guy I looked up to."
The family was unable to find a perfect match but John's son, John Keegan III, was a half-match and a transplant was performed in September with a follow-up lymphocyte infusion in May 2020.
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In the two years following the bone marrow transplant, John senior dealt with several new health complications including Graft Versus Host Disease and COVID-19, along with a few surgeries-- all during a global pandemic.
But in the two years given to John by the transplant, he was able to be present for family milestones.
"He was able to come to my wedding," Ryan said. "He was able to see my brother have two sons. That time was something that is so special to us."
John played golf, spent time on the beach, went to a Giants game, and lived his life to the fullest.
Unfortunately, John's fight came to an end on Christmas morning in 2021.
While John was never able to find a perfect match, his youngest son Ryan received a call in March 2020 that he was a match for another patient in need.
"Being called by them was one of the coolest experiences of my life," Ryan said. "Being asked do you want to save someone's life, like how do you say no to that."
Two months later Ryan donated stem cells to help the life of a woman he never met. In 2021 she was successfully in remission and the two will meet for the first time this year at the Be The Match New York Gala where the Keegan family will be honored for their work.
The Keegans use John's story to educate people on the importance of joining the bone marrow registry.
Ryan, now an ambassador for the NYC chapter of Be The Match used his father's favorite pastime to create a fundraising golfing tournament in his honor.
"I wanted to start a little something for him kinda, not a memorial to him," Ryan said. "Something to give back in his name and keep his name alive and that's when we started the John F Keegan."
Ryan and his brothers also ran the New York City Marathon and raised a combined $150,000 for the organization.
"It's something I believe in and I really want to get the word out to people to realize that you could save someone's life," Ryan said.
On Tuesday, Good Morning America co-host Robin Roberts celebrates 10 years since her return to GMA after a life-saving bone marrow transplant.
Eyewitness News will be live at Hofstra University on Tuesday morning where students will be taking part in a nationwide bone marrow drive to celebrate Robin's anniversary.
If you're interested in joining the "Be the Match" registry follow the link and begin the registration process.
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