Kenneth (Ken) James Dawson
My brother, Kenneth (Ken) James Dawson (September 3, 1975 – February 16, 2013) is remembered as a kind, compassionate, big-hearted, funny, determined, and talented man. He brought light and laughter wherever he went and to anyone he met. He always had a twinkle in his eyes, a smile on his face, a hearty and contagious laugh matched with an open-welcoming presence.
Ken loved traveling the world and experiencing different cultures and foods. He had a huge passion and natural talent for music, starting at a young age when he would bring instruments home and learning how to play them over a weekend, to singing in different choirs and joining different music groups like jazz, Samba, and drumming. He was the type of person to keep himself busy, living life to it’s limits and striving for the best in everything he did.
In the summer of 2008, Ken was working full-time as a software consultant, while keeping busy with playing in a Brazilian samba band, beach volleyball, kickboxing, soccer and learning how to play Gaelic football. His hip was bruised from a soccer match which developed into a painful hematoma in November, so he checked into the ER. The blood tests taken from triage revealed the shocking truth that he was diagnosed with CML. He started treatment, including Gleevec, and while getting better he gained motivation to start a new career direction into Health Care Information Technology.
While studying health informatics in Toronto, he received news that Gleevec no longer had an effect in treating his leukemia and the next step would be a bone marrow transplant. As his sister and the closest match, I was chosen to be the donor and the transplant occurred in December 2010. The months that followed were slow for my brother, losing his sense of taste and coping with “chemo brain” but 9 months later, he was able to move cities and start a new job in health care IT. He excelled in this new chapter in his life, finding happiness with work, church choir and drumming circle. This warmed my heart.
In March 2012, my brothers test results showed that the bone marrow transplant did not take and was put in a clinical trial for Ponatinib, which stopped in the summer because his platelet counts did not go up. This meant more blood transfusions for him and waiting for the results of a molecular level test to understand what was happening. On November 30, 2012, just over 4 years after my brother’s diagnosis date, we received some somber news from Princess Margaret Hospital that his leukemia has progressed to the blast crisis phase, and at this stage his cancer was untreatable.
After hearing this news, my brother updated our team saying that “In summary… the bad news I only have months left to live. The good news is I STILL have months left to live”. This statement demonstrates his positive attitude, drive, and amazing strength that he lived by. He continued living his life, working and socializing (when his energy permitted). He left peacefully in February 2013, joining the choirs of angels in heaven. He lived a full and enriching life, spreading laugher and love to everyone he met. We were so grateful to have had the support of friends and family throughout this journey. I am so proud of the man that he became, and I hope that I am making him proud. He is always in my thoughts, missed every day and I carry his spirit in my heart.
I am so honored to have Ken as the Remembered Hero for 2023. This year marks 14 years participating in the Light the Night Walk, and 10 years without Ken being physically present. I have many fond memories of us walking together with friends and singing random songs at the top of our lungs. I feel a connection with him at this event and know he is there with us in spirit. My brother’s light shines on through us and we continue in his memory. I carry on with our hope that a cure will be found!