Kevin Kane's Life
Kevin P. Kane was a remarkable man who lost his life due to an aggressive cancer, as a direct result of chemicals released by the Nyanza Chemical Dye Company in Ashland, Ma. in 1998. He died within a year of his diagnosis and spent the last months of his life as an advocate in search of the truth. His courage and persistence lead to the The Ashland Nyanza Health Study (completed in 2006.) The Study confirmed that the cluster of rare cancers in Ashland's youth were a result of their proximity to the Nyanza Chemical plant.
It is impossible to know Kevin Kane without knowing his family and his extraordinary and dedicated parents Bernie and Marie Kane. Kevin was the 9th child in the Kane family. He entered the world at 5:00 pm on September 22, 1972 and there was so much excitement in the Kane household when Marie called to announce to the 8 other children that she would be bringing home a baby brother. Marie recalls, "What a thrill for me! Kevin was a model baby with 5 sisters claiming a role in his care."
"As a child, Kevin was precocious, very hyper, definitely ADHD before the term was invented. He was an active daredevil. He would do anything you challenged him to do., always wanting to be part of the action. Kevin had to go wherever his big brothers and sisters were going, it didn't matter where. He just had to be a part of what everyone was doing" Bernie Kane.
In high school, Kevin loved to play sports; including football (winning him the “unsung hero” award), wrestling, track and golf (team captain). As a senior, he was given the Sportsmanship Award voted on by the coaches.
He was very friendly, had tons of friends of all varieties, boys and girls older and younger. He could relate to anyone. Kevin worked hard at school, never took short cuts, and never got into trouble. He enjoyed a great sense of humor and enjoyed all the sibling ribbing that took place. As a young teen, he was greatly impacted by the cancer diagnosis of his friend, Timmy. As time went on and Kevin became ill, Tim, in turn felt guilty that he recovered from his cancer and the outlook for Kevin had became bleak.
In college and beyond , Kevin was the life of the party with more friends than he could count. He worked very hard to graduate. Following graduation in 1994, with his degree in hand, he immediately was hired as a case-worker for the Department of Social Services, a position he held until he could no longer work.
Letters and Tributes to Kevin
Dear Uncle Kevin,
It has been a long 8 years since you passed away, and it has been really hard on the family. Everyone misses you a lot, and sometimes it is hard to watch, especially at your wake. I remember everything that happened like it was yesterday, but the thing I remember best is when Grammy saw you, it was the hardest thing to watch, and I couldn't help but cry either.
It's much the same thing when we go to your memorial stone every year on August thirty-first, I try really hard not to cry, and sometimes I don't, even though I want to. Everyone else does, and it gets very hard to be there, sometimes I want to leave because I don't want to remember the first time we were there.
Every year we have your "memorial dance" thing, and it's supposed to be a fun thing that the family goes to, but I don't go, because I don't want to be the one to think of you and start to cry. Everyone gets kind of angry because I don't go, so I tell them it's not "my thing", when really that's the reason I don't want to go, but I don't want to tell them that.
I remember when my parents came home and told us that you had passed away, I couldn't cry then, I had to wait for everyone to go out, I remember sitting on the steps watching everyone else, I sat upstairs right in this seat and waited until it was my turn to let it out. I looked up to you like a big brother, and now I don't have that.
I don't show my feelings usually, and you knew that. I don't cry in public, or show any type of emotion, and I would rather not have anyone read this at all, but you're the only person other than my parents or grandparents, that I could write longer than a paragraph. I am not sure if I will put this in my portfolio or not, because again I don't like to have people know how I feel about these things. Sometimes I think my parents think I am ignorant, and don't feel anything, but I do. They just don't see it. I hope to see you again up there someday, if not I miss you a lot.
Love the best Godson,
My Uncle was diagnosed with cancer in September of 1997. During treatment he wrote:
That you guide me to everlasting light,
I wish for you to give me strength, spirit and fight
To help me through these nights.
My Uncle Kevin never gave up hope. Instead of quitting he took his diagnosis as a challenge, always thinking of the cup as half full, not half empty. He was known for his amazing attitude towards life. During the fight for his life he was trying to save others by researching the cause of his cancer. It was a toxic dye dumped by Nyanza. My Uncle and several of his friends were victims. In his journal he wrote, "I am not ready to die, and if cancer wants a fight it came to the right person on the wrong day. I will not lose.” He did not lose, he took the challenge and made an impact. He won the battle in my mind. August 31, 1998, my Uncle died, at the age of 26. He saved many from the fate he suffered. He gave cancer the battle, the challenge and he found the silver lining.
The way I live every day is a reflection of my Uncle. I will take any challenge and believe in my ability to make a difference. Let’s go back to my third grade year. I tried out for the basketball team. At first I did not even know how to take a lay-up and people told me that I was horrible, but I did not give up. I thought of the cup as half-full because I knew I could learn. By the last tryout I was making lay-ups and jump shots and I made the team after all. I could not have been more proud. If you look at a problem in the right way it will turn out good. I still think that way today. If I get a bad grade on a test, I just think about how I will improve on the next test. If I miss a tackle in foot-ball well I will just have to hit the kid twice as hard the next play. I keep a positive attitude. Someone once told me, ”It’s your attitude more than your aptitude that determines your altitude.” In other words, a positive attitude will get a person further in life than any other quality because everyone will experience challenges and it is the way we deal with problems that separates those who win and those who make excuses.
My Uncle died when I was very young so I did not get to know him well but I hope that I can keep his legacy alive by his can-do attitude and by my example. I hope to inspire others to do the same. If we see the cup as half full, we can create a more satisfying life because we appreciate what we have instead of what we want. If we see the cup as half-full, we can achieve more because if we can imagine it we can do it. If we see the cup as half full, we can start a chain reaction because a smile is more welcome than a frown.
I have no memory, no recollection
Of who you were
All I know is what I’m told
I read the articles and listen to the stories
But I still sense that something is missing
You left before I could fully understand
What it truly meant to lose a great man
I try to make decisions that you would have made
But I still can’t feel what everyone else does
I know how large an impact you had on everyone’s lives
Just based on the tears they shed each year
But I feel lost because I never knew
I hope you look down on me and smile
Because if that is so
I know I’m doing right
Losing a loved one in life is heartbreaking and causes pain and suffering: Uncle moving on and remembering the good times is being strong. My Uncle Kevin Kane, who was also my God-Father, passed away from a rare form of lung cancer, called angiosarcoma, during the summer of 1998: he was only 26 years young. He was a family man who was known for never giving up on anything. Raised in a Catholic family, he always went to church and always had faith. What people most knew him for was being energetic and always making the best of things. He was determined to fight until the end, pray for the best and have a positive attitude. For his perseverance, his faithfulness and his positive attitude, the admiration I have for my Uncle Kevin can never be surpassed.
My Uncle passed away when I was only three years old, so at the time I did not understand what was happening. Everything I have heard about his battle was about how he never gave up, no matter how bad it got. He wanted to find answers to questions there were no answers to and find a cure for the future as his time was coming to an end. Doctors told him there was no way to help him, all he wanted to do was prove them wrong. This taught me to persevere and push through even when all hope may seem lost.
Attending church every week, my uncle, along with the rest of his family, went and prayed and listened. With the spirit of God helping them, his parents and his eight older siblings all hoped and prayed that things would improve in Kevin’s sickness. Believing that God has a plan for everything that happens in the world, it is hard to take in tragic events that may occur, but having faith that everything will be okay is part of believing. Throughout the years growing up, it has been hard to understand why someone’s life would be taken without a reason. Even though my Uncle and God-Father never got to guide me through life physically, he is always here with me in my mind to help me through anything and to keep my head up even in the worst of times.
Behind his smile holds a story that nobody can ever truly understand without living through it. During Kevin’s whole life he was always a fun loving and enthusiastic man. He would always have a smile on his face and would always be having fun. Being an athlete he was always active and always accomplishing a new goal. While being sick he was still involved in his family’s lives and tried to make them feel better by putting on a happy face. Hearing stories about him makes me look up to him and want to have the strength to have a winning attitude in everything life throws at me.
Showing the strength to put on a brave face during tumultuous time, like my Uncle did, is a quality I can only hope to possess. Having to understand that everything happens for a reason is hard but being religious and having faith helps in getting through situations. To be strong and to fight until the end shows that he never gave up and lets others know that the fight is never over. I will continue to admire my Uncle for all of these traits and more for he set an example for others to follow. Through conversations with others who knew him well, it’s clear to see the admiration they had for him too. A family quote summarizes how Kevin felt during the final days of his illness and how others, including me, choose to live their lives; ”It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”
Family is a term that has a varied meaning depending on who is asked. Some people are very close to their family. These people understand what it means to be loved and to have a place to call home. Others have a weak relationship with their family. They have trouble understanding how it feels to be loved, understood and welcomed. Still others bear little to no resemblance at all to a family. I have pity on those who have a weak or absent family influence. These people do not have a safe place among family where they can call home. Personally, I have a very strong family influence. I know how it feels to have a group of people that I can go to at any time if I need assistance. I know how it feels to walk into another home and feel as if it were my own. I know how it feels to have a family gathering with everyone present and those are the reasons why I feel that losing a family member is the most devastating event that can happen in a person’s life.
I was four years old when my Uncle Kevin Kane died of cancer. He had developed a rare form of sarcoma, a cancer in which a tumor arises from a number of transformed cells. His diagnosis came at a time in which a large number of Ashland residents were also developing varied forms of cancer. The reasons behind this phenomenon were quite puzzling and Kevin decided that he would not stop until he found the culprit behind these mysterious happenings. After thorough investigation he decided that the Nyanza dye site was to blame. This site was located behind Ashland High School and in many instances; students would jump into a small pond that had been unknowingly contaminated by the pollutants used by the company. Nyanza had been closed many years before Kevin went to school but the site had never been cleared of all hazardous waste products. After learning this information, through intense research at the library and town hall, Kevin’s goal was to see to it that the site was properly cleaned in order to ensure that no one else would have to worry about any effects of the site. Kevin died on August 31, 1998. He had fought the cancer for almost a year and his determination pushed the investigation of the superfund site. Years after his death, it was concluded that the site was to blame for his death and for the number of cancerous students and adults from Ashland High School. Kevin’s Kane’s final wish was granted.
I do not know my Uncle on the level I wish I had. From this story and from the countless others that I have heard from my older family members, he was a very strong and dedicated man who was friendly with everyone he met. As I mentioned earlier, I was only four years of age at the time of his death. I have only vague memories and pictures of what he looked like. I have to rely on learning about who he was through stories from my family. I wish I had known more but the fact of the matter is I was born too late to know the man for myself. Each year, on the anniversary of his death, my family gathers for Mas at St. Cecilia’s Church and after Mass go to his grave for a blessing. Each year we play the same song, “Forever Young” by Bob Dylan. This song is a great reminder of the fragility of human life and particularly of the fight that Kevin Kane fought for all to see. Before every game I play, particularly football because he was a football star, I think of him and of what he would be like today. As much as I wish I could go back even just to have one conversation with him, I know that I have to live with the stories I am told for now. His memory inspires me to do my very best because I know that somehow, somewhere, he is watching me.
with the sound of an occasional car humming by
the bright, warm sun glistens and catches my eye
and I pause and think of you.
I can almost hear the sound of your voice
amidst the almost silent noise
with a cool wind blowing to add to the noise
I pause and think of you.
This momentary peace with calm in my heart
brings rushing forth thoughts of you in part
as I’ll never forget you and want always to start
my day; and think of you!