From having a near-death experience to becoming an inspirational speaker, Billy Keenan details in his memoir, “The Road to Resilience: The Billy Keenan Story”, the ups and downs of his journey in life. Published in March 2023, Billy’s story is a tell-all book that gives the reader a deep insight into how he was able to power through the toughest battles in his life.
Throughout his journey, Billy was a soldier, paratrooper, triathlete, surfer, musician, high school history teacher, father, and husband. On September 14th, 2013, his life suddenly took a horrific turn when he was in a surfing accident that left him instantly paralyzed. In his memoir, Keenan brings the reader on a journey with him from the very start of his successful career to the present.
While faced with continuous adversity after his accident, Billy was determined to go back to teaching. He credits Jaclyn Rance, a Speech Language Pathologist at Helen Hayes Hospital, for being such a supportive figure in his life. While working with Rance, Keenan progressed slowly but surely towards getting of the ventilator, and regaining his voice.
“From a physical therapy standpoint, Jacklyn was the person,” said Keenan.
With perseverance and great support, Keenan was able to gain independent breathing, something that his medical team did not think was possible. “Once I could breathe, I knew I could teach,” said Keenan. He returned to teaching in 2015, with the support of his teaching assistant, Sue Segalbacher. In March 2017, Keenan got very sick, and his life was almost taken by a severe UTI.
After being in a coma for 72 hours, Keenan was given the news by his doctor that he had to retire from his teaching career shortly after in June 2017.
Out of another horrible situation, and desperation, he then found inspiration. Billy knew he had a purpose, and he kept his faith strong. By September 2017, his new journey of sharing his story began. “I was reborn as a motivational speaker. I went out and found a purpose, telling my story. And so even out of the worst darkness, I was able to find a light.” stated Keenan.
Keenan reflects on his time as a soldier when speaking of his experience pushing through adversity. He reminsiced about his first experience overcoming a physical disability, passing air born training with a badly injured knee. He had a hard decision to make which was to overcome the pain and suffering just to get through airborne school. “I went through it, and there was evidence of resilience,” stated Keenan.
Keenan’s story exemplifies the importance of never giving up while enduring any type of tribulation that life may throw at you. He courageously advocated for his rights in recovery, while seeing a way forward past his suffering. “If I could find a way forward, given this, you could likely find a forward too,” said Keenan.
Fast forward to the present time, Keenan continues to spread his message of resiliency as a motivational speaker. Keenan has spoken at several businesses, high schools and colleges, including his alma mater, Fordham University’s Westchester campus, and West Point Military Academy. He receives love when people are focused on the message that he has given them about resilience, dealing with trauma, adversity, and major life changes.
Billy’s brother, Jim Keenan, gifted him a computer along with a software program called Dragon, which enables him to communicate online effectively. The software has also allowed him to transcribe his memoir. This is Keenan’s first novel, and he is currently writing his second novel, to be titled, “I Am Iron Man”.
When asked for his advice to anyone who may be struggling in their recovery, Billy said, “I shifted my focus away from the things I could no longer do, and I narrowed it down to what I could do.” Billy’s perseverance signifies that anyone can make the best out of a negative life- changing situation.
“Go back into your path. Find a time, when you had to struggle, a trauma and adversity, a major life change, and you succeeded. You got through it. You got past it. You went around it. You did something that can enable you to go forward. Pick that one moment in your life and know that you can do it again. No matter what you did before, I have no doubt in my mind, and there should not be a doubt in your mind that you can do it again,” expressed Keenan. He was able to find a silver lining in his suffer- ing and has a passion for providing hope for others who are facing their battles.
Billy Keenan is now a bestselling author. “I wrote the book to show people that it’s possible not just to survive, but to actually thrive in the middle of terrible, terrible adversity.” To read Billy’s story, you can order “The Road to Resilience. The Billy Keenan Story.” on Amazon, Browseabout Books, Bookshop.org, Indigo, and Barnes and Noble. Keenan has also started a new podcast called, “Keenan’s Korner” which is coming soon on YouTube. He is also available for speaking arrangements. To arrange, you can visit: https://keenanstrong.org/home.