NEW MIDDLETOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Pancreatic cancer is a painful, brutal disease that most of the time leaves patients with just months to live.
But Randy Heaver of New Middletown has vowed to beat his months-only prognosis.
For him it began in October of 2012.
“I started having some fatigue, I was tired, more than I should be. Some pain in my abdomen,” Randy said.
Fifteen months later, Randy, 48, and his wife Peggy sat in their family room and talked frankly about the inevitability of pancreatic cancer.
“At first, it was really hard. The first three to four days it was really hard to take for both of us,” Peggy said.
“I won’t lay down and hibernate in the house and be a crying mess in the corner,” Randy said.
Randy Heaver grew up on a farm in Springfield Township, then spent four years in the Army. For the past 20 years, he’s been a mechanic for the Mahoning County Board of Developmental Disabilities, which is where he met Peggy. They were married on a beach in Hawaii and both have grown children from previous marriages.
Fast forward to 2013.
“End of July, I found a lump on my neck. A real small thing, just maybe the size of a pencil eraser,” Randy said.
They scheduled his surgery for Sept. 3 and they removed the lump, Peggy recalled.
“That was on a Tuesday and we had a doctor’s appointment with a surgeon on Friday and that’s when he came in and he said it was cancerous,” she said.
But at first, there was no mention of pancreatic cancer. The Heavers were confident Randy would beat it.
There was a PET Scan, after which, on Sept. 18, they met with a specialist in Cleveland.
“And the doctor came in and told us that it was pancreatic cancer, stage 4, inoperable, terminal,” Randy said.
“And we just kind of looked at each other. I could just feel my body shaking. And I asked him if we could see the scan for ourselves and he said yes. So he took us in another room and it was bright orange every place the cancer was and it had Randy’s name on the side of it,” Peggy said.
Randy Heaver was given six to nine months to live.
Sixty-seven days after the diagnosis, 600 people attended a benefit in Randy’s honor.
“I honestly never thought that I had touched so many people in my life,” Randy said.
He and Peggy also traveled to California, where they took off their shoes and walked barefoot along the beach. He also would like to visit the Bahamas.
Randy is too weak to work and is part of a chemotherapy clinical trial that won’t help him, but might save the next guy. There is pain that he medicates with small doses of morphine.
Randy and Peggy also have become advocates of regular PET scans, which can detect pancreatic cancer earlier.
“Started in his abdomen a year-and-a-half before that, but until it matastisized into his neck, we would have never known,” Peggy said.
There is some good news: The tumors have shrunk by about a quarter. But lingering over the Heavers every day is the prognosis of six to nine months. Four already have passed.
“I’m going to beat the nine-months deadline. I’m going to beat that by a long shot,” Randy said.
They have good insurance, but a Heaver Family Fund has been set up and donations can be made at any Huntington Bank branch.