Rodeoing to help others

Hastings rodeo raises funds for cancer patients at Morrison Cancer Center

HASTINGS, Neb. — Linda Hepler has been told she’s a miracle, and she knows it.

In 2019, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given three months to live.

Three and a half years later, she’s still on this earth.

The Hastings, Neb., woman’s cancer spread from her pancreas to her lungs.

She underwent 21 chemotherapy treatments at the Morrison Cancer Center and is now considered to be in remission.

Hepler, a custodian at a school, wasn’t able to work because she didn’t feel good. Since the pancreas, which helps control blood sugar, wasn’t’ functioning correctly, she got diabetes, losing weight and having blurred vision.

After a “solid month” with a stomach ache, one day she told her husband, Jeff, she had to get to the emergency room. “I do not feel good,” she told him.

The doctors had done an MRI and didn’t find anything. But it was the sharp eyes of a radiologist, who had had a family member with pancreatic cancer, who found the tumor.

The day Hepler started chemo treatment, her kidneys shut down and she nearly died.

But more than three years later, she and her husband are doing OK. She retired at age 62 from her job, since she couldn’t work. Jeff, who has spinal surgical myelopathy, is disabled and uses a wheelchair.


The Morrison Cancer Center has a fund called “From the Heart,” which is given to cancer patients to pay for things they need. As in Hepler’s case, sometimes those undergoing cancer treatment aren’t able to work because they don’t feel good. Or they have extra expenses like travel to and from medical treatment, or expenses insurance doesn’t cover.

The From the Heart funds are usually in the form of gas cards or Hastings Bucks.

For the Heplers, the From the Heart donations came in handy.

“When you’re on a fixed income and you have something like this happen, sometimes it’s a struggle, especially toward the end of the month,” Hepler said. “Sometimes I just don’t have the funds. When the (Morrison Cancer) Center reaches out to help, that’s awesome.”

The Oregon Trail Rodeo in Hastings has helped raise money for the From the Heart fund since 2007. Over $38,000 has been raised by the rodeo for the Center.

Fans are asked to wear pink on Aug. 20, for the rodeo’s annual Tough Enough to Wear Pink night. For every fan wearing pink on that day, the rodeo donates $1 to the Cancer Center’s From the Heart fund. Thrivent funds supplement the rodeo’s donation.

Hepler has a tie to the rodeo; her step-sister’s son is a steer wrestler and will compete at the Oregon Trail Rodeo this year.

She believes she’s been left on this earth to do a job, she said. “I think God has a plan for me. He kept me here to help my family as much as I could, to guide them and help them.”

“I’m actually a miracle, and that is not a lie,” Hepler said. “Dr. Copur (at the Morrison Cancer Center) calls me his poster child.”

The Oregon Trail Rodeo will take place Aug. 19-21 at the Adams County Fairgrounds with performances at 7 p.m. on Aug. 19-20 and at 6 p.m. on Aug. 21.

Tough Enough to Wear Pink night is Aug. 20. Fans are asked to wear pink that night. Pink buckets will be passed to pick up donations for the From the Heart fund at the Morrison Cancer Center.

Rodeo tickets are $10-$20 and are available for purchase online at, at the fair office, and at the gate.

For more information, call the fair office at (402) 462-3247 or visit the website.


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