Senior has new outlook after illness


Katherine Williams

Senior Keaton Hoy continues to struggle to recover after illness kept him out of school.

By Meriel Salisbury , Features Editor

After weeks of difficult symptoms and no clues as to what was causing them, senior Keaton Hoy received a diagnosis in August of primary hyperparathyroidism and had surgery to remove one of his parathyroid glands. 

Hoy first knew something was wrong when he felt extremely dizzy one day in early July, and indications of illness got only more prevalent as the summer progressed. 

“About a week and a day after I had started feeling sick, parts of the right side of my body were starting to get these strange sensations,” Hoy said. 

When a concerned Hoy visited the ER, doctors scanned Hoy’s brain in three different ways to look for signs of a stroke and ran another blood test that showed abnormal calcium levels. 

“Nobody was really too concerned about that elevated calcium so they discharged me from the hospital… But that was not really an adequate explanation considering that afterwards my symptoms continued to worsen as far as the sensations on that side of my body and my anxiety and things were getting much worse,” Hoy said. “I found myself forgetting a lot of things. I felt like I was processing much slower.

I felt like I was forgetting names, words, sort of a lot of short term memory as well.”

— Keaton Hoy

Hoy had long-awaited summer plans to pursue while navigating these difficult symptoms. The morning after he left the hospital, Hoy flew to Los Angeles to attend the GRAMMY Camp for students interested in music careers. 

“Being in another city while things were continuing to happen, continuing to get worse was really… it settled some, I would say, oppressive hopelessness because I really did believe that I had had some kind of brain trauma take place,” Hoy said. “I could not soak up nearly as much of it as I really wish I would’ve been able to had I not been ill when I was there.”

After arriving back to Lawrence, Hoy underwent a sestamibi scan of this throat, which used radioactive dye to reveal his parathyroid in detail.

“[The parathyroid] is a… basically pea-sized… gland on your thyroid. What they were looking for is to see if one of my parathyroid glands was enlarged and had an adenoma on it which is a benign tumor,” Hoy said. “Sure enough, my lower left parathyroid had one of these… They went ahead and diagnosed me [with primary hyperparathyroidism] considering that they had found the tumor and then also seeing that I consistently showed elevated calcium and elevated parathyroid hormone.”

 A surgery to remove Hoy’s lower left parathyroid was scheduled for September 25. Confirmation of what was causing Hoy’s illness was helpful, he said, but did not outweigh his continued struggles with the side effects or with resulting mental health challenges. 

“Two of the very strong symptoms of primary hyperthyroidism are depression and anxiety and that has certainly been the most difficult part to deal with aside from the physical complaints which is like muscle aches, muscle weakness, things like that,” he said. “Those things were difficult to deal with because they create more anxiety, create more depression.”

Hoy’s surgery date was moved up to Friday, September 13 to prevent any further mental harm. 

“Typically a parathyroid gland is about I think maybe a centimeter in length… and mine had grown to be over one inch. It was big, meaty, like at least ten times the size of a normal one. So they basically cut into my throat and pulled it out and they tested it to see if the cells were cancerous.”

The tumor was not cancerous, and Hoy said he had recovered physically from the surgery in about a week. Recovering from the experience overall has not been as speedy a process. 

“I still have to recover a lot as far as lost time because while I was really dealing with it I missed out on doing a lot of things that I otherwise would’ve been doing, especially in regards to applying for colleges and working towards my future,” Hoy said. 

Hoy is grateful for the support that he had during the medical experience and the resulting 

“I think my family really wanted what was best for me throughout the entire process and they still very much do and I thinks sometimes it was really difficult because my family and I had different ideas about how best to help me and how best to get me the best treatment,” Hoy said. “Ultimately I think this panned out in a way that has been able to get me the help that I’ve needed.”

Returning to school and normal routine was difficult, Hoy said, but his teachers and friends at LHS helped significantly. 

“I think Keaton is really empathetic. That’s one of the first things I think of. When we were reading Catcher in the Rye I thought his reading of Holden was very compassionate. He’s incredibly intelligent and a good person,” English teacher Melissa Johnson said of Hoy, who is in her AP Literature and Composition class. “I tried to do for him what I do for anyone who is having a special circumstance, which is being really understanding about missing assignments.”

Hoy’s friend group helped guide him through the changes that his illness caused in his life. 

“He’s very imaginative and lives within his interests,” one of Hoy’s friends, senior Cameron Bohmann said. “We all tried to be there for him and just supportive of him, telling him to be strong and offering him help if we could.”

Bohnmann believes that Hoy’s illness caused a noticeable change in his personality.

“He’s more calm and I wouldn’t say closed, but he’s more confined on himself and sees that his future is not guaranteed; that anything can happen to him,” Bohmann said. “I think it taught him to not take things for granted.”

While Hoy’s three remaining parathyroids are functioning perfectly without their fourth counterpart, he is working on recovering mentally. 

“It was a very traumatic event and so essentially what I’m trying to work on now is reconciling with that trauma and reconciling with that,” Hoy said. “I really did think that this would prevent me from my entire future and that… somehow this whole event had somehow cleaved a divide between now and before it instead of just allowing it to be a part of my continuum.”

During the rest of his senior year, Hoy plans to work on a post rock experimental album that will channel some of what he has dealt with in recent months. 

“ I don’t really think that I need to look at it like a before and after,” he said of his illness. “This is just another part of my story. This is another part of my growth, and my maturing, and my development, and I’m happy for that and I’m glad to be able to grow in that way.”