WAXAHACHIE — Standing a towering 5-foot-2 and known to her grandchildren as “Big Mama,” one local, pink-haired grandma is in the midst of her fight against cancer, but she needs a little assistance from the community.
Diagnosed with stage-four breast cancer that has now targeted the bone, Alea Hunter-Sheppard has been undergoing intense rounds of chemo to overcome the life-threatening disease.
“I told her doctor, ‘She’s hard headed, and if anybody can beat this, it’s going to be her,’” chuckled Mandy Hocutt, daughter of Alea Hunter-Sheppard. “She has done phenomenally with the chemo she has already received and is receiving right now. Her oncologist is just really floored by the progress she has made, but the new chemo that they’re wanting to start is going to target her bones.”
Required to be cleared by a dentist to apply the second cycle of bone chemo treatments, Hunter-Sheppard ran into dental issues that put a halt on her therapy.
“The chemo targets the bones and so much as a cavity intensifies it, which will cause her hospitalization and some serious damage if she has any dental issues while getting this chemo,” Hocutt articulated. “The chemo she’s already received has done a number on her teeth, so they felt the safest way was to go on and just have them removed. So they’ve suggested that we go on and have her teeth removed and get her dentures."
Without insurance coverage for the needed dental procedure, Hocutt and her family are throwing a fundraiser to cover medical expenses and move on to the next phase of chemo.
“We’re having a live and silent auction, music, raffles, and we’ll also be serving brisket tacos, which is going to be amazing,” Hocutt described the event’s festivities. “The Preston Scott band will be playing, and the country band, The Damn Texans, will also be playing. And I have a lot of family and friends who are musically inclined, and we’ll have an old time pickin’ session. It’s going to be a lot of fun."
The Box Car Bar, located at 222 West Bear Creek Road in Cedar Hill, will host the event.
“The Box Car has been phenomenal, as far as helping us plan and get auction items - I cannot say enough about them,” Hocutt complimented. “They’re just wonderful people, and I think it was a godsend for us to have it here.”
As the fundraiser takes shape, the Waxahachie community has supported Hunter-Sheppard’s cancer progress.
“We have been humbled and overwhelmed by all the donations, and people praying for her - the community with family support is just amazing,” Hocutt acknowledged, holding back tears. “Just knowing that she has people standing behind her and fighting for her, it’s really been helping her, and it’s been such a blessing.
“She’s a trooper from day one. The doctor told her that she was treatable, but not curable because the cancer had spread to her bones, and I was sitting right there when she told him, ‘You’ll see! I’m treatable, of course, but I’m also curable, and I will beat this.’ And he is just amazed at the progress she has made."
With community backing, Hocutt invites all of Ellis County to attend the benefit this weekend to support her mother’s battle with cancer.
“She is just a very loyal, hardworking, God-fearing, beautiful person. She would do anything for anybody,” Hocutt described her mother. “It’s funny because she told me, ‘I have too much to live for. You’re my only child, but I have grandkids too, and I’m not going down without a fight.’ It’s amazing because she hasn’t gotten sick during chemo and she’s made it through with flying colors, fighting and winning."
The Alea Hunter-Sheppard benefit is set for Saturday, May 20 at the Box Car Bar, located at 2222 West Bear Creek Road in Cedar Hill. The event will begin at 12 p.m. and will last through the evening. Taco plates will be $5 per person, and there will be a $5 donation at the door. For more information, visit facebook.com/hashtag/teamalea.
Chelsea Groomer, @ChelseaGroomer