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Hayfield grad Keegan Bronson will beat cancer. It’s just a matter of time

Keegan Bronson was diagnosed with cancer a few months ago. He's got an uphill battle, but he's too determined to let cancer derail his life.

Keegan Bronson.
Contributed / Alexander Thorpe

HAYFIELD — In December, Keegan Bronson found himself in a Mayo Clinic hospital room with his parents and Dr. Peter Rose.

Rose was discussing surgical options with the Keegan family to treat Keegan’s osteosarcoma, a bone cancer that starts in the cells that form bones. The option being discussed: amputation, or cut the knee out and replace with a rod and hinge.

Keegan’s reaction to the difficult discussion wasn’t sadness. In fact, it was the opposite.

“Once he left, I jumped up in the room and said, ‘I know exactly what I want to do,’” Keegan said. “It’s not what (my parents) thought.”

With the rod and hinge, Keegan would have to treat his body like he was 70 years old — no running, playing hockey or skiing, because any damage to the rod and hinge would result in another surgery.


But Keegan isn’t 70 years old. He’s a 19-year-old collegiate golfer, and he wants to be that athlete as long as possible. So amputation became his destiny, so to speak — the best option for Keegan to continue living the way he wants.

Keegan’s fate was medically decided after scans showed that amputation remained a viable option for him. Weeks after he settled on amputation as his desired surgery option, he got a call: his iPhone screen read “unknown caller,” with the name Casey Martin under it.

Keegan freaked out, almost to the point of forgetting to answer the call.

But, as a golf fan, you answer the phone when Martin calls. The University of Oregon coach, PGA Tour professional and Stanford graduate (where he played with Tiger Woods) is a well-respected coach and golfer.

He’s also an amputee.

Martin was born with a rare condition called Klippel-Trenaunay Syndrome, which meant the vein in his right leg that led to his heart never formed. He lived for 47 years without injuring that leg, but, after breaking it in 2020, amputation was determined to be his best — and really, only — option. Martin called amputation his destiny.

So, when Keegan answered Martin’s call, he was on the phone with a golfer who has been through everything Keegan will face post-surgery.

They talked about waking up without a leg and phantom pain. But it’s maybe more accurate to say that Martin talked — Keegan being too starstruck to respond with anything other than “uh huh.”


The conversation meant a lot to Keegan, though, as he’ll have his left leg amputated in two weeks.

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The fall men’s golf season at Waldorf University in Forest City, Iowa, kicked off in August. It wasn’t long before Keegan, a freshman, started feeling pain in his leg.

He golfed through it. Keegan's parents, Kevin and Stacy, noticed their son limping in September. But Keegan toughed it out, Kevin chalking it up to the toughness he gained from playing football and wrestling.

At the next invitational Kevin and Stacy attended, Kevin asked to see his son's knee.

“He pulled his pants down and his knee was just huge,” Kevin said. Keegan said his knee continued swelling. In October, he stepped out of the school van after a golf tournament and he almost fell on his face because his leg wouldn’t straighten.

Kevin thought fluid could be on his son’s knee. At the worst, maybe Keegan had torn his ACL. Keegan, an elementary education major, had a month left of school, so the family decided to wait until the year was done, then schedule an appointment at Mayo Clinic.

Keegan and his mom, Stacy, went to sports medicine at Mayo Clinic on Nov. 21, 2022, believing what was hurting Keegan was some type of sports injury.

“They took x-rays,” said Stacy, adding, “and I take x-rays — that’s my job. That image came up, and I just knew that there was something … you could tell it was just not a normal x-ray.”


The doctor said it could be arthritis, a bone infection or a tumor. Blood work was ordered that day, and Keegan had an MRI two days later.

“We had three doctors call us after hours on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving,” Stacy said. “So we knew that it wasn’t good.”

The results weren’t conclusive, so “we got the whole weekend and half the week to sit and wonder, ‘What the hell is this?’” Kevin said.

Of course, no one was thinking about cancer. Keegan knew he wouldn’t be able to golf for a while, but he “didn’t know it would take nine months.”

But, after a bone scan and bone biopsy, osteosarcoma was the confirmed diagnosis. Keegan saw the oncologist for the first time Nov. 29, and treatment started soon after. Osteosarcoma is an aggressive cancer, so doctors wanted to begin treatment as soon as possible.

“It’s been kind of nonstop since then,” Kevin said. “And we really haven't had a ton of time to wrap our head around or even really know what the hell's going on. They say go here on this day, and we go there on that day. And they do what they do.”

Keegan’s treatment is 10 weeks of chemotherapy, surgery (amputation, in his case) and another 18 weeks of chemotherapy. In a month span, Keegan spends about 14 days in the hospital, if everything goes well.

Chemotherapy, for some, is a grueling process that causes uncontrollable sickness, weakness and throwing up. While those symptoms are accurate for some — including Kevin’s mom, who died of cancer 18 years ago — Keegan’s experience has been different.


“It's not that bad,” he said. “It's just more annoying than anything. You're in the hospital for so long. You can't do anything except stay in the hospital bed.”

Keegan is still dealing with nausea and sleeps for hours on end when he returns home after a hospital stay. But “based on the questions (the doctors) ask, it seems to be going good,” Kevin said.

“His appetite is great,” he continued. “The chemotherapy that’s supposed to make him really sick hasn’t made him really, really sick. He’s actually put on about five pounds throughout the whole process, which they’re amazed by.”

But “this stupid thing has a way of reminding you” that Keegan is still sick, Kevin said. Like the day his son went to get a blood draw, Keegan got a bloody nose too, and had to stay in the hospital all day.

Treatment is going well enough for Keegan to talk about the future, like teaching and coaching after college. In the nearer future, golfing again is, of course, high up on his to-do list once he’s comfortable in his prosthetic. And, if Keegan has his way, he’ll be on the golf course two months post surgery, golfing with an Austin club.

Then, when the MSHSL girls golf tournament rolls around in June, Keegan could be at Pebble Creek Golf Club watching his sister, Carly, golf.

“She’s going to be better than him,” Kevin said, just before a slightly defensive Keegan exclaimed that the COVID-19 pandemic “screwed me over.”

“That’s why she’s going to be better than me,” he said.


Benefit fundraiser for Keegan Bronson

Osteosarcoma Cancer Benefit for Keegan Bronson

What: Silent auction and food to raise money for Keegan's family.

Where: The Village Pub Lounge, 4 Center Ave. South, Hayfield.

When: 1-7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 4.

More information: Facebook event page.

Abby Sharpe joined the Post Bulletin in February 2022 after graduating from Arizona State University with a sports journalism degree. While at ASU, she created short- and long-form stories for audio and digital. Readers can reach Abby at 507-285-7723 or asharpe@postbulletin.com.
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