Suffolk Police Sgt. Andrew Kenneally's excruciating back pain netted a dire diagnosis: a kind of cancer called multiple myeloma.
Through all the treatments -- surgery, chemotherapy -- since his diagnosis late last year, Kenneally missed just 18 days of work.
It was that strength and perseverance, police officials said, that led to Kenneally, a former Marine and 23-year Suffolk police veteran, being one of two Long Island officers honored Thursday with Theodore Roosevelt Association Police Awards. The awards are distributed nationwide to officers who have overcome major physical challenges or handicaps, as did Roosevelt, the nation's 26th president.
"There are few times in life when something hits you that makes you buckle at the knees . . . cancer, the gravity of that word has no equal," said Kenneally, a married father of four who spoke tearfully as he described how his family at home -- and in the department -- supported him through his treatment. Kenneally said he is now in "complete remission."
Kenneally and Nassau Police Officer Mohit Arora, who was shot in 2013 when he responded to a New Hyde Park home invasion, each received a medal bearing the former president's likeness during the ceremony Thursday at Sagamore Hill National Historic Site in Oyster Bay -- Roosevelt's home from 1885 until his death in 1919.
Dozens of police officers in their dress blues and the families of both Arora and Kenneally attended the ceremony, which was punctuated with the sounds of the Suffolk County Police Emerald Society Pipe Band.
The association donated $1,000 in each officer's name to charity -- the American Cancer Society for Arora and the Maryhaven Center for Hope, a Port Jefferson Station-based group that provides services for children and adults with disabilities, for Kenneally.
"Andy's determination, professionalism, endless dedication to duty, overwhelming courage in the face of adversity make him the ideal recipient," Suffolk Police Commissioner Edward Webber said.
Kenneally is from a police family: His late father, Officer Thomas Kenneally, retired after 24 years on the job; his older brother, Thomas Kenneally Jr., is a captain in the Fifth Precinct; another brother, Matthew Kenneally, is an officer in the Sixth Precinct; and his sister-in-law, Sgt. Kathleen Kenneally, works in the department's Community Response Unit.
Arora, an eight-year department veteran who also has received recognition from the Nassau Police Benevolent Association and the county's legislature for his actions, said Thursday: "I feel really honored to be here."
Arora's boss, Insp. Sean McCarthy, commanding officer of the Third Precinct, said Arora "has been a valued member of the Third Precinct since he showed up. He's a man of few words, but a lot of action. He's always first to the scene, first out of his car, first through the door. He's a valued member of the Third. Other cops love to work with him. We're very, very proud of him. We're very lucky to have him back."