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Dec. 5, 2019 | Thursday
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He won’t quit: NOTL author chronicles life’s ups and downs
Mike Keenan with a shirt from Hotel Dieu Shaver Hospital that reads Don't ever Quit which inspired the name of his book. (Brittany Carter/Niagara Now)

Mike Keenan always tried looking on the bright side, even after living through several crises at different stages of his life.

He wrote about how he’s coped by using humour, jogging and positivity in his self-published book “Don’t Ever Quit: A Journal of Coping with Crisis and Nourishing Spirit,” which is available now on Kindle and Kobo.

He says he hopes the book will offer some comfort and solace to those going through difficult times in their own lives.

“I think it might be beneficial for other people who have to encounter these types of things – particularly anybody who has to go through a major event like hospitalization,” Keenan says.

“I would have liked to read something like this when I was in the hospital.”

That “was a big push” for him to get the book off the ground. “I would have found it comforting, I think. It was scary what I went through.”

He was hit with a midlife crisis around his 40s when he says his life was going “swimmingly.” At the time, he had been married for 18 years, had two kids, two cars, a career and a house.

Suddenly he says he started questioning everything.

“I got into a very reflective mood and that forced me to start dealing with my dysfunctional family growing up in Toronto in poverty. It was something that I always pushed aside and never dealt with directly.”

He dealt with it indirectly, he says, by diving into athletics as a kid and taking up running later in life. But it wasn’t until he began writing different parts of the book that he was able to work through how his past had been taking a toll on his present.

Keenan, who is The Lake Report’s theatre critic, worked on the book for several years, always making notes and forming ideas when he had time, though he says it wasn’t until he retired that he took up writing more seriously.

“It’s something that I have been working on throughout my entire life. The book was written in several stages. When I was in the work world, I was pretty busy as it was, I didn’t have a lot of time for writing.”

The first portion of the book touches on his relationship with his father, or lack thereof, and his experience in athletics as a way to seek his dad’s attention and approval, he says.

After an all-star football career at Western University, he was trying out for the Calgary Stampeders, when it dawned on him that he wasn’t doing it for himself.

“I thought to myself, ‘What the hell am I doing this for?’ I had the realization that I had been doing it to get my father’s attention. My entire athletic career was inauthentic.”

Moving forward, he says he wrote about throwing himself into jogging and reaching six miles a day. He composed poetry while running and talks about the symbolism of running to and from his issues.

“Because I got up to six miles a day I was floating on endorphins and a runner’s high.

I thought that was a great solution, but it was a diversion. I use running as a metaphor – running toward or running away from confrontation with myself.”

After an exceptionally terrifying moment waking up with no feeling in his lower body while vacationing in Athens with his wife, he says he spent months recovering and learning to walk again at Hotel Dieu Shaver Hospital in St. Catharines.

He credits his recovery to the nursing staff, for their positivity and excellent care, he says.

“The people who worked there really impressed me. It had a big impact on my recovery. There were a couple nurses in particular that are in the book that were like my guardian angels,” he says.

And as well as encouraging his rehabilitation, his stay at the hospital inspired the name of his book.

“I saw a shirt that read ‘don’t ever quit’ – I knew that would be the name of my book.”

After coming to terms with his “awful upbringing,” overcoming a midlife crisis and learning to walk again, Keenan was hit with yet another crisis.

He was diagnosed with prostate cancer, compelling him again to find ways to cope with life’s constant roadblocks, he says.

Armed with a sense of humour, which he says is extremely important in making it through any crisis, and his own experiences, Keenan compiled the book as a way to work through everything he has undergone so far while also offering some solace and comfort to those dealing with their own personal crises.

Keenan’s e-book is now available for Kindle at https://tinyurl.com/yeybavvj and for Kobo at https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/don-t-ever-quit.

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