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Retired educator will tell story of cancer survival

August 18, 2013
By SUMMER WALLACE-MINGER - Special to the Herald-Star , The Herald-Star

PARIS - Larry Neptune, New Cumberland native, Wintersville resident and long-time teacher and coach at Edison High School, will discuss how his faith and family helped him beat cancer at Coffee With the Author at noon Aug. 23 at the Gathering Place Coffee House located at the Paris Presbyterian Church on Steubenville Pike.

Neptune wrote "Conquer Your Disease" after his fight with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. He will discuss his book, sell copies and do a book signing. All proceeds from books purchased at the event will benefit the Gathering Place. Otherwise, proceeds benefit the American Cancer Society.

Neptune spent his 38-year teaching career at Edison High School, and its predecessors, Edison South and Jefferson Union. While there, he coached football, boys and girls basketball and track at the junior high and high school levels.

Article Photos

NEPTUNE’S STORY — Author Larry Neptune discussed an upcoming Coffee With the Author event at Paris Presbyterian Church’s the Gathering Place Coffee House. Neptune, far right, discussed the event with, from left, Outreach Director Margie Zellars, Secretary Jessica Buchanan and his wife Diane. -- Summer Wallace-Minger

Neptune received a bachelor's degree from West Liberty State College. He initially considered a job in the lucrative pharmaceutical field, but after some soul-searching and heart-felt prayer, he went into education.

"I just knelt down and had a heart-to-heart with the lord, 'I really worked hard and I would really like a job, just let me know where you want me to go,'" he said. "'The next job offer I get, that's what I'm going to take.'"

The next offer he received was a one-year contract with then-Jefferson Union, which Neptune promptly took and held onto, despite offers of a higher salary as a pharmaceutical representative.

He's been there ever since, and nothing, not even cancer, could stop him from teaching.

Neptune first realized something was wrong when he began rapidly losing weight without an apparent reason.

"I got very ill," he said. "I lost about 20 pounds. Until that time, I'd been the epitome of health - I'd even participated in the seniors versus faculty basketball game. I'd always been able to do whatever I'd wanted, and the experience of being so sick was humbling."

However, doctors weren't able to pin down what was making him so ill. His co-workers' concerns convinced him to visit the emergency room, where he was admitted and rounds of testing began, including bone marrow testing.

"You lie face down on a hospital bed, take this large needle and what they're doing is breaking off tiny pieces of bone," he said. "It's pressure. You feel a lot of pressure."

Despite the testing, blood transfusions and expensive medications, Neptune continued to teach.

"It was a very difficult time, physically and mentally, but I went to work every day because it made me feel better about myself," he said. "I'd rather do that instead of wallowing in self-pity. I thought, 'why not?'"

Neptune's struggle to continue to teach inspired his student John Reho to nominate him as an outstanding high school teacher to be recognized by the University of Akron.

"Mr. Neptune never used his cancer as an excuse," Reho wrote in his nomination. "He never slacked on a lecture because he was tired, and he never complained about his illness to the class. ... His character is truly an inspiration."

"Being around the kids kept me young," Neptune said. "I wanted to work and I knew I needed to go to work. It was so important not to feel sorry for myself."

Neptune is a member of the Wintersville United Methodist Church, where he and his wife assist with the Vacation Bible School and his wife and daughter are involved with the music ministry. The Neptunes said that growing spiritually close to God is something they decided they wanted to make a priority early in their marriage.

"I called my church every Sunday," he said. "I asked every human being I knew to pray for me. The power of prayer is an amazing healing force."

Neptune said he spent a great deal of private time in prayer, asking God that, if it were his will, to heal him - and the cancer went into remission.

"You don't know who is watching you - when you're going through these things, experiencing these tragedies, people are watching you and your reaction and your faith walk," said Neptune. "Without my faith walk, I really don't know how I could have gotten through."

Two years after he beat the disease, the cancer came back.

"It's the news that every cancer survivor doesn't want to hear," he said.

Neptune, now aware of the symptoms, was quickly diagnosed and began treatment.

"It wasn't as severe, because we caught it early," he said.

Six months after the second diagnosis, he once again was cancer-free and has been so for 12 years.

"I thank the Lord every day for my good health," he said.

Neptune wanted to share that thankfulness and inspire others in their battles with cancer, so he began to write.

"I wanted to tell the story of how Jesus has touched my life," he said, adding he wanted to reach out to those with cancer and their caretakers and loved ones and give them hope.

He said he wanted to share the message of "J.O.Y. - Jesus, Others, Yourself," prioritizing faith and helping others over one's self.

"When I got diagnosed in '99, I didn't wonder, my full faith was in God, the great physician," he said. "I could have wondered, 'why me?' and not gotten out of bed, but I asked everyone to pray and continued to believe the Lord was going to heal me. My faith was as important as the diagnosis. It's so important when you're ill to continue your faith walk and believe he will take care of you, that you are on that path together."

Neptune is a 1969 Oak Glen High School graduate. While at Oak Glen, he played football, basketball and track. While a New Cumberland resident, he attended Trinity United Methodist Church. He lives in Wintersville, with his wife, Diane. They have a daughter, Allison.

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