PARIS, Pa. - Larry Neptune discussed his battle with cancer, how he pulled through with the support of his family and the power of prayer and why he was inspired to write a book about his struggle.
Neptune was the featured author Aug. 23 during a Coffee With the Author event at The Gathering Place Coffee Shop at the Paris Presbyterian Church.
He is the author of "Conquer Your Disease" and spoke about his book and held a book signing. Neptune, a New Cumberland native and Wintersville resident, spent 38 years teaching and coaching in the Edison School District.
"We're all survivors, everyone here either has had cancer or has had a loved one who had cancer," he said. "We all know someone who has lost the battle. There is a special bond between cancer survivors and their loved ones and friends. Our lives have been extended to do the work God has called us to do."
Those attending included a cross-section of people from his life, including former teachers and students.
"If you would have told my teachers then that I'd be standing here today, they wouldn't have believed you," Neptune said of his teaching career. "I'm just blessed to have had the opportunity to have worked with so many fine people. We are the people we are today because of the people in our past. I never dreamed I would be a successful teacher."
Neptune, a former athlete and coach, was in good health before he developed non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in spring 1999. His illness began with an enlarged spleen, swollen ankles, fluid on the lungs and exhaustion.
"I taught on the fourth floor, and I'd get to the third floor and I didn't have any legs left," he said.
Despite CAT scans and blood infusions, it took a bone marrow biopsy for Neptune to be diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
His treatment included Procrete, which he took intravenously.
"It feels like kerosene going in," he said. "It burned the whole way in."
The lymphoma meant abnormal B cells were packing his spleen and lymph nodes, and the medication destroyed both normal and abnormal B cells and encouraged Neptune's body to make healthy cells.
"They give you an IV, two Tylenol and Benadryl," he said. "Every one in chemo knew when the Benadryl kicked in, because I got quiet and I was never quiet. When the medicine kicked in, I got up, got everyone coffee and let them know how great they looked."
Neptune also was sleeping badly because the fluid on his lungs and his enlarged spleen was pressing against his diaphragm.
"It's such a suffocating feeling," he said. "I had to curl up in a fetal position - it was the only way I could rest. For about six weeks, I went to bed each night without knowing if I would get up the next morning."
He stressed the importance of following medical advice, noting he complied with all his doctor's instructions and began to get stronger. He also relied on prayer, asking everyone he knew to pray for him and spending time in private prayer at home. At church, he could no longer sing, because the fluid on his lungs, but he could ask for prayer.
"I told my students, 'I don't want your pity, but I am very sick and what I would like is for you to pray for me,'" he said.
Finally, the cancer went into remission.
"You don't know what a great feeling that is," he said about hearing he was cancer-free.
Two years passed, and, in spring 2001, he noticed a lump on his neck while shaving. A course of antibiotics failed to resolve the issue, and Neptune found out his cancer had returned.
"I had to go back, and, over six months, I had four more treatments," he said, adding it had been diagnosed more quickly now that he was aware of the symptoms.
Those treatments, including a maintenance treatment, sent the disease into remission once again, and Neptune has been cancer-free for 12 years.
"I'm thankful for my good health," he said. "I cherish every day and live my life to the max. I have a great respect for the gift of life. I love my life and am so blessed."
Neptune decided to share his experiences in a book, stressing an attitude of hope and reliance on doctors and prayer.
"I felt led by God to write it to inspire and uplift those battling cancer," said Neptune. "I have been where you are and I won my battle. You will, too. You have to take your medications as directed, pray and believe that you will beat cancer."
Neptune has returned to his teaching and coaching roots, despite having retired from Edison in 2012. He has signed on to assist with the youth sports program, Let's Play Ball, in Steubenville, Ohio.
"I'm still coaching, still teaching," he said. "I'm blessed to have touched thousands of lives."
The Let's Play Ball program focuses on providing positive role models and engaging economically disadvantaged youth in a positive activity.
"It's been a great experience," he said.
Neptune is a 1969 Oak Glen High School graduate, a West Liberty State College graduate and a member of the Wintersville United Methodist Church.
Also during the event, Neptune's wife, Diane, sang "In Heaven's Eyes," and his daughter, Allison, sang "Blessings."
"My dad is an inspiration," said Allison Neptune. "When he had cancer, he didn't feel sorry for himself. Dad has inspired me to be a survivor."
The coffeehouse is free and open to the community and church members encourage area groups to utilize it. It is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and is staffed by volunteer hosts.
For information, call the church at (724) 729-3450 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Wallace-Minger can be contacted at email@example.com)