Pastor Randy Heckert, university chaplain, returned to campus this semester ready to continue ministry for this new academic year after battling stage 2A of esophageal cancer.
“It has been a like a breath of fresh air,” Heckert said about returning to campus. “That was one of the hardest things, to be away from students.”
“I used to put in a whole day, then go home and have dinner with my wife, and come back in the evening and spend time with students here,” Heckert said.
He is doing most of the things he was able to do prior to the cancer, but he is learning to pace himself in his work. He is still gaining back some of his previous strength from the treatment and cancer.
Heckert is now going for three month check-ups which will increase to six months as results are clear.
Heckert described a little bit of the experience he went through.
“It was the most terrible, wonderful year of my life,” he said.
He said that he was able to learn more about God than he would ever have been able to learn in health. He learned to be a better pastor, father, husband and grandfather.
“It was a journey, and God took me places in terms of my own development if it hadn’t been for that suffering,” he said.
Heckert commented that it isn’t something you like to dwell on, but it is something that is not to be forgotten. It was a whole year of his life and he wants to be able to learn what he can from it.
“I want students to learn from what I have had to go through,” Heckert said.
Heckert said he welcomes students to feel free to talk with him and they shouldn’t be afraid to approach him.
When Heckert returned in the spring, a cancer support group was started. It is going to continue this semester in a few weeks.
It is a group for those interested in learning more about cancer, those who have had or have cancer or people who have seen the effects of cancer on someone they know.
“It is part of my recovery,” said Heckert.