Keri Peckham was the embodiment of driven. She achieved more in her early twenties than most people do in their entire lives. A proud graduate of Florida State, she was working at the National Governor’s Association and then at the Federal Reserve under Alan Greenspan. She had a great life planned, right down to writing down the description of the man she would marry, so she would know him when she ran into him.
She ran into that guy when she met Chase Peckham at an engagement party in Big Bear, California. A long-distance relationship ensued for the next few years before she moved to San Diego as she puts it, “For sunshine, a job and a guy.”
Over the next few years, the family would add first a son, Clay, and then a daughter, Avery. Working as the marketing director at a private school, Keri also started a blog entitled, “Time is Money Mom,” an ongoing dialogue on how to combine smart parenting and finance.
Life was great; hiking in the Southern California mountains, spending time with family in North Carolina and vacationing in Loreto, Mexico.
Almost like she planned it that way.
In May of 2021, she noticed a pain in her lower right abdomen while at a Padres game. As the pain increased, she thought it could be appendicitis. The next morning, she drove to urgent care to get someone to look at it. Scans were taken and a few moments later she was face to face with a very young and visibly upset doctor who told her with tears in his eyes that she had colorectal cancer. As she told her husband later, “I didn’t know which of us needed more consoling.”
The cancer was advanced and because of a BRAF mutation, it was aggressive and had already spread to her liver. She was a stage 4 cancer patient at the age of 42.
Her treatment started immediately, as did her advocacy. Using herself as an example, she admonished her friends and husband to get screened, letting them know that even someone who is younger than typical, with no family history and in great shape could get colorectal cancer. Because her chemo started right away, some of her friends and even her husband would have a colonoscopy before she ever did. In her husband Chase’s case they found and removed thirteen small polyps.
Keri would work and blog throughout chemotherapy, never missing a day of posting, her Instagram full of pictures of her in an infusion chair, or recovering at home, with her laptop at the ready. Though her blog detailed the good, bad and ugly of chemotherapy, a tough sense of hope was a consistent theme. Besides work and the blog, she made sure to journal individually to friends and family on a constant basis detailing how she felt and the rhythms of treatment – and that she was OK.
The initial chemotherapy would be effective. The tumor in her colon had shrunk considerably and the ones in her liver had stabilized so she transitioned to a maintenance chemo. Vacations put off by Covid and chemotherapy were back on the schedule. Her maintenance chemo and targeted treatments to her liver allowed her to work out and life had a semblance of normalcy.
She attended Colon Camp in June 2022, keeping pace with other survivors on runs and HIIT workouts. Shortly after Colon Camp in July, Keri noticed a slight yellowing in her eyes. Her liver had begun to fail.
Cancer is different from other calamities. It is not a heart attack or a car accident. A cancer patient has time to reflect on the important things in life and to plan. When the outcome became evident, Keri focused on her family and the words from Kate Bowler that had become her mantra: “Life is so beautiful. Life is so hard." Keri added, "Love and family are everything.”
She made an extended visit to North Carolina to be with family as well as a vacation to Loreto, Mexico. She recorded dozens of messages to be played at future life events for her children. She also left a couple for her husband, Chase. Only a couple were needed as after over twenty years together, everything else had been said.
Towards the end, her best girlfriend from college, Ryan Overton, and Chase took turns staying with her in hospice. On Sunday, August 7, 2022, she passed away while both of them happened to be there together. Almost like she planned it that way.