Gianna Pearl McKeon
Gianna Pearl McKeon was born on June 26th, 2011, in Bemidji, MN to Hayley and James McKeon. At 3:14 a.m. on January 27th, 2022, Gianna left this earth. Her last moments were spent in her parents’ loving arms, with her family nearby.
Gianna’s 10 years of life were filled to the brim with joyous things she loved to do: dancing, drawing the best pictures, belting out songs, playing in her big back yard, riding her bike and scooter, sledding, and taking family members on golf cart rides. She loved making up dances and playing Barbies with her older sister Ruby, and building Playmobil and Lego sets and planting secret gardens with her “Irish twin” brother Rocco.
Gianna was such a contented girl and her “happy place” was always with her family. She loved to snuggle with her favorite blankie and take naps, always waking up with rosy cheeks and a smile on her face. She craved being cozy and cuddling with her mom and climbing up onto her dad’s lap for hugs. Being a mermaid at heart and an excellent swimmer, she loved swimming in her Mimi and Papa’s backyard pool and at the sandbar with her family. Gianna loved going on Florida beach vacations, lake and river cruises in the pontoon and visiting her Grandma K and Papa Jim’s house.
Gianna was hysterically funny and told the best one-liners and zingers; her deadpan sarcastic remarks were legendary. She loved reading in bed with her mom and going to high school football games so she could watch her dad coaching on the sidelines. Family birthdays and all holidays were extremely important to Gianna, especially Halloween and Christmas. There was nothing too elaborate for these festivities, which always included a choreographed dance performance by the cousins.
Gianna cherished her entire family and loved to have them around as much as possible. She held a special and unique bond with each and every one of them. Her long days of being confined to recuperating in a bed were lightened by becoming an expert at playing Roblox online with family and friends. Gianna was so proud to have created her avatar in a likeness of her actual self: a beautiful amputee. Gianna had many nicknames that she answered to: G Pearl, G Pearlie, G Squirrel, Pearl, Gigi, G, Gia, Gianna Pearl, Pearlie Pie.
On February 8th, 2021, Gianna was diagnosed with telangiectatic osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. Her parents, Hayley and Jim, never left her side and she was never alone. They slept next to her every night, whether it was in her small hospital room with her mom on a blow-up twin mattress and her dad on a plastic couch, or at home with her twin bed next to theirs. Her parents did everything to make sure Gianna was as comfortable as possible. They ran frequent errands to make sure she had exactly what her latest, very specific food craving was, because eating was difficult at times. They did so many things around the clock for her in the hospital because they knew Gianna would’ve hated having someone else do them. Her mom kept track of the multitude of her medications and did daily dressing changes on her amputation incision. They made so many back and forth trips to Minneapolis because they knew that the only place Gianna wanted to be was at home with her family. Her mom and dad did it all.
Gianna valiantly fought this aggressive, chemo-resistant bone cancer for 354 days, spent close to 150 days in the hospital, and made countless 8-hour round trips driving to her care team at M Health Fairview Masonic Children’s Hospital. She endured the horrific pain of a tumor in her knee that grew to the point of breaking her femur, requiring a grueling 4-hour ambulance ride. She endured a limb-sparing surgery on her left leg, replacing her diseased and broken bone with metal rods. She suffered through 6 different chemotherapies and radiation to her spine. In August, her left leg was amputated at the hip as a “Hail Mary” attempt. After many months of having a wound vac attached, the incision was just recently getting close to being healed. She needed endless medications, suffered infection setbacks, fevers, many surgeries, collapsed lungs, multiple chest tubes, blood transfusions, countless scans, endless poking and prodding, unrelenting pain from tumors that had spread all over her body, an experimental trial drug that we thought would be her miracle … and she never complained once.
In early December 2021, Gianna’s wish was granted by Make-A-Wish MN to take a family trip to Disney World. The McKeons stayed at the magical Give Kids the World Village, where her “G” star will live forever in the Castle of Miracles. So many priceless memories were made on this trip of a lifetime, where Gianna’s actual dreams came true.
Gianna’s final days were spent in her favorite place in the world: at home in her bed with her family surrounding her. Gianna is finally released from almost a full year of torturous pain and suffering. She is the strongest and most courageous person we have ever known … or ever will know. No one has ever been loved or admired more than our sweet 10 year old, Gianna Pearl.
Gianna is survived by her parents, Hayley and James McKeon, sister Ruby McKeon and brother Rocco McKeon of Bemidji, MN; grandparents Patrice (Mimi) and Robert (Papa) Hurd of Bemidji, MN; grandparents Kathy (Grandma K) and James (Papa Jim) McKeon of Mazeppa, MN; great-grandmother Lois (Grammy) Frazee of Tower, MN; great-grandparents James and Donna McKeon of Rochester, MN; auntie Heather Hurd of Bemidji, MN; auntie Hannah and uncle Dustin Wesely, cousins Amelia, Calvin and Graham Wesely of St. Michael, MN; uncle Mark and auntie Amy McKeon, cousin Remi McKeon of Denver, CO; extra special friends Lillie Grace Dodds, Megan Wagner and Carly Floyd; many other loved family and friends; and dogs Daisy and Luna.
Special thanks to Gianna’s favorite nurses on Unit 5 at M Health Fairview Masonic Children’s Hospital, Nurse Practitioner Erin Fritz, Oncologist Dr. Emily Greengard, Orthopedic Oncology Surgeon Dr. Edward Cheng, Nurse Susan Schuler and Hospice Nurse Martha. A heartfelt thank you to Dana of Team Tucker and also to Kevin Cease of Cease Family Funeral Home, for taking such compassionate care of our precious Gianna.
Thank you from the bottom of our hearts to the Bemidji football community and the entire Bemidji area community for the inconceivable support you have bestowed upon our family. For almost an entire year, you have helped to keep us afloat with your generosity and care. Your supportive friendships, prayers, benefits, monetary donations, food, supplies, special experiences and tributes, gifts, emotional support and most of all: love and caring … will never be forgotten.
At this time, there is no memorial service planned. The family requests any remembrance tributes be directed to Gianna’s GoFundMe page (search for Gianna McKeon on gofundme.com), a portion of which will be donated to several charities for childhood osteosarcoma research. Condolences may be left at ceasefuneralhome.com.