Palmetto teen Keishonda Packer Cooper gave life even as she lost her battle with cancer

PALMETTO -- Keishonda Packer Cooper was diagnosed with cancer on Aug. 8, 2010. She was 14 years old when she found out she had alveolar soft part sarcoma, a rare form of cancer that typically occurs in adolescents.

"She took it with a fight," her stepfather, Melvin Calhoun, said. "When she was diagnosed, she knew that was an adversity point in her life where she could do nothing but fight."

The 19-year-old fought until Tuesday, when she passed away at Manatee Memorial Hospital. Late last week, one of Cooper's lungs collapsed, which resulted in a massive heart attack.

Doctors said she fought until the end.

Messages of love and mourning have poured onto social media this week over the death of the nursing student, who was described as very positive and caring to others.

Calhoun, who has been married to Cooper's mother Melissa Felicia Packer for 16 years, said the family had traveled back and forth between Florida and Atlanta for Cooper's treatment over the past year.

When Cooper died, someone received her corneas. The act was a blessing in Calhoun's eyes.

"She was able to give life to someone else when she was ending her life," the 45-year-old said.

Just before 5 p.m. Tuesday, Cooper's parents wrote on her Facebook wall that she passed away. They thanked her friends for their prayers.

"She will be missed and is truly loved," wrote Maribel Gonzalez. Another woman named Alexandria Sade' Lindsay thanked Cooper for all the joy she brought to her life.

"She was a real positive girl, always with a smile on her face," said Laquaja Davis, who knew Cooper since sixth grade. "All the teachers liked her at school. She was always the type to be involved in all the different programs at school."

Calhoun said his stepdaughter was studying nursing at the State College of Florida. She wanted to be a pediatric cancer nurse.

"She was a natural cargeiver," he said. "She cared more about you... instead of herself. That's why she really wanted to be an organ donor."

On Jan. 8, Cooper uploaded two side-by-side photos of herself onto her Facebook page. Dressed in comfy capris, the left photo shows Cooper pointing to her black shirt which reads: "CANCER SUCKS."

On the right photo, the teen placed her hands playfully on her hips -- showing off a bright smile.

Amaris Castillo, law enforcement/island reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. Follow her on Twitter@AmarisCastillo.