Courageous cancer battle inspires footy club support
Watching her son’s courageous cancer battle has inspired a mum who is rallying community support as her boy heads back in for more treatment.
Jackson Hepner, 20, had only just completed Year 12 when he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer.
Since then his family’s world has revolved around chemotherapy, surgery and radiation treatments – all while trying to maintain a business in Woodford.
“It’s been extremely gruelling,” his mother Rachael Hepner said.
The Mt Archer family spent nine months living in Brisbane alongside Mr Hepner as he underwent a heavy course of chemotherapy.
“That was pretty massive,” Mrs Hepner said.
Mr Hepner was then told the cancer had returned with nodules found on his lungs.
He underwent more surgery before doctors discovered late last year the cancer had spread to both his thigh bones.
“He did do two rounds of chemo, lost his hair again and was quite unwell,” Mrs Hepner said.
“In November, he completed two weeks of radiation and then this year recently we found out that it (cancer) has presented itself again.”
Mr Hepner is now one of 16 patients who are taking part in a clinical trial at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane.
“He’s been to hell and back pretty well,” his mum said.
“There’s been good moments, bad moments, there’s been great days, there’s been a lot of crap days.”
Mr Hepner did however manage to complete his carpentry apprenticeship.
“He’s done it in the same time that anyone completing an apprenticeship would,” Mrs Hepner said.
“He’s managed to work through multiple treatments.”
Family friend Helen Ngawhare, who is also undergoing her own battle with cancer, has organised a fundraiser this weekend.
The Stanley River Wolves rugby league club will host a benefit day with 50 per cent of the gate takings to be donated to Mr Hepner, a former Wolves junior.
Wolves A-grade player Callum Klein said he had known the Hepner family for some time.
“Jacko is someone I’ve known, he’s been around of lot of my cousins growing up,” Mr Klein said.
“Some of our paid players- I’ve had one of them call and say his match payments from round one and two will go to Jacko.”
Mrs Hepner said she had been overwhelmed by the response after Ms Ngawhare “set the wheels in motion”.
“She wanted to do something for Jackson in the form of a fundraiser, which we weren’t aware of straight off the mark,” she said.
“But with social media, the traction of it has gone a little bit gangbusters.”
She said the family had kept their battle private for the past three years.
“Just feeling like we’re opening ourselves up to the world is a little bit scary,” she said.
“The kindness and the generosity has just been extremely humbling to see.”
Mrs Hepner said while the family had rebuffed previous offers of help it was important to them to share their journey.
“We sort of thought well Jackson is 20 now, maybe if it helps shine a light on teenage cancer then this could be a good thing,” she said.
Her family is also looking at other options with treatments available in Australia and overseas.
“We’ve been researching different options for a long time,” she said.
“It’s just trying to find the one that’s hopefully going to be the one that does what it needs to.”
The Wolves will meet Kawana at Woodford Showgrounds at 5.30pm on Saturday.
If you can’t make the game this weekend, you can still support Jackson and the Hepner family.
An ANZ bank account has been set up for Jackson.
Account name: J Hepner
Account Number: 413730351