Survivor turned caregiver: One family's fight against cancer

BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ7) - Just as a family thought their fight was over, cancer struck again, transforming one survivor into her husband’s caretaker.

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“When it happens to you personally, that’s when it really gets real,” Tara Nepper said.

Six years ago, that reality hit Tara Nepper and her entire family when she found out she had breast cancer.

“We started off with a joke and that’s what our family does, and I said ‘Hey I got great news, I get new breasts!’ And they looked at me really funny for about a half a second and then they knew,” Nepper said.

That’s when the Neppers started their fight.

“I never felt hopeless through my journey but I felt extremely scared,” Nepper said.

Her husband and three daughters stood beside her through her double mastectomy and four rounds of chemotherapy.

They used laughter and support to help get her cancer-free.

“So we went through that, and then four years later we have to sit them all down again and tell them the same thing for their dad,” Nepper said.

Doctors had diagnosed Nepper’s husband, Steve, with tonsil cancer.

“To tell your kids once that you have breast cancer and that cancer’s in your family and that it’s touched your parents, to set them down a second time, hardest thing in the world to do, hardest thing to do,” Nepper said.

The roles reversed and Nepper became her husband’s caregiver as he endured eight weeks of chemo and 40 rounds of radiation.

“And even though you’ve got friends and family, they don’t know what to do, but the American cancer society, they know what to do, they know how to get you through this,” she said.

It’s the organization’s research and early detection that helped save their lives and keep this family whole.

“We’re living in a post cancer world where we are way more likely to say yes to the things in life, we can say yes because we have a whole bunch of tomorrow’s in front of us, and that feels pretty good,” Nepper said.

That hope for the future is made possible by the research and work of organizations like the American Cancer Society and fundraising events like this weekend’s Cattle Baron’s Ball.

The Cattle Baron’s Ball is happening Saturday, November 16 at Glenburn Farms in Vinton.

The fundraising event promises a toe-tapping, knee-slapping good time with live music, a silent auction and lots of dancing. Plus, WDBJ7’s very own Robin Reed and Jean Jadhon will be emceeing the event.

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