October 21, 2013

After cancer diagnosis, Maine teen puts life on fast track

Damon Haggan of Belgrade plans to get married next month and wants to establish a family and a legacy.

By Matt Hongoltz-Hetling mhhetling@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

BELGRADE — Damon Haggan is only 18, but he is trying to arrange for a wedding, a child and a legacy – all the challenges of adulthood – as quickly as he can.

click image to enlarge

Damon Haggan, 18, of Belgrade was diagnosed with mesothelioma in May. He plans to marry his girlfriend of two years in November.

Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

The Damon Haggan Cancer Fund

Damon Haggan, 18, of Belgrade has been diagnosed with stage 4 mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer that affects the lining of the internal organs. Mesothelioma is rare, occurring in one of 100,000 people.

His medical care is covered by insurance, but his family is struggling to pay associated costs, such as the unpaid time off for travel to medical centers in Boston. He is also seeking support for his wedding, planned for November.

The family asks donors to send contributions to the Damon Haggan Cancer Fund at TD Bank, or to donate online at www.gofundme.com/damon-haggan-mesothelioma.

The urgency, which would be out of place in most young men his age, stems from a cancer diagnosis he received just weeks ago.

Until recently, Haggan’s life and thoughts were focused on his passions – the girls he’s kissed, the cars he’s owned, the animals he’s hunted, the bones he’s broken, the fish he’s caught, and the speeds he’s attained on motorcycles and snowmobiles.

Wearing a hunting cap with a large fish hook through the brim, he talked about his first car, a Jeep Cherokee, between sips from a water bottle of blue Gatorade, which he said is the only drink he can keep down.

“I could stick my fingers through the frame, so I got the money back for it, got to keep it, sold it for junk. Then I got an ’88 Chevy with nine inches of lift with 33s on it, so I used that as my toy for a while. Then I just got rid of that, and now I’ve got a ’94 Jeep Wrangler with six inches of lift with 33s on it,” he said.

But his life’s interests changed when Haggan was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer that attacks the linings of the internal organs. Haggan’s cancer is stage 4, which means it has already spread throughout his body.

Now, he’s forced to deal with a new set of experiences – the liters of fluid he’s had drained from his lungs, the painkillers he’s swallowed, the biopsies he’s endured, the ambulance rides he’s taken, and, most importantly, the number of months he’s got to live.

Haggan is trying to cram a life’s worth of achievements and aspirations into however much time he has left.

He is still a teenager, but he is urgently trying to establish a family, a future and a legacy.

His first order of business was to ask his girlfriend of two years, Keshia Fournier, to marry him. The two are planning a wedding for Nov. 9, and Haggan, an avid hunter, said he’s put careful consideration into his outfit, mostly camouflage.

“I’m gonna have my black steel-toed boots, black Carhartts, camo vest and tie with camo jacket, a camo hat,” he said. His camouflage sunglasses are in the mail.

Fournier, a thin girl with freckles and a ready smile, said she and Haggan love each other and had planned a relationship that would last far into the future.

“I was hoping it would,” she said. “But ...”

If he undergoes chemotherapy, his sperm will no longer be viable, so he’s also scheduling an appointment with a sperm bank. When Fournier is ready, he said, he wants her to bear his child.

“I’m not dying without a kid,” he said.

Haggan has a habit of asserting that things will happen the way he wants them to.

“I will have kids. That I will,” he said. “I don’t care what anybody says.”

Fournier said she hasn’t thought about when she might get pregnant, because she is trying to stay positive about Haggan’s future.

Haggan’s got another goal, but he’s not sure whether he’ll be able to accomplish it. In November, Haggan’s father died in a car accident. The car, a ’94 Mustang GT convertible, was ruined, but Haggan saved the motor and the transmission. He would love, he said, to rebuild those parts into a fully functioning car that would honor his father’s memory, and be around long into the future.

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