“For being a small town, it’s gotten a lot larger for me,” Town helps Purcell firefighter battle cancer

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PURCELL, Okla. — This will not be a normal Father’s Day for one Oklahoma firefighter.

Joe Heck learned he had a terminal brain cancer called Glioblastoma in April, and will spend the holiday fighting the disease.

“It’s fairly rare. They describe it as it has tentacles, but once they remove the tumor the tentacles grab other parts of the brain and another tumor will grow,” Heck said.

So far, Joe has had two brain surgeries and spends most of his week undergoing radiation and chemotherapy.

“This is making us kind of sad,” Ethan, Joe’s 4-year-old son, said.

Joe’s children say they are sad because their dad is constantly at the hospital. When asked if their dad is sick, his 7-year-old son Michael said “No, he just has brain cancer.”

“It’s been a little tough, but you know we make it,” Joe’s wife, Kathleen, said.

While the family prays for a miracle, the outpouring of support from their home town keeps them going.

“When you think you’re out there alone… well I was wrong. Purcell’s a big town. For being a small town, it’s gotten a lot larger for me,” Joe said.

Since finding out Joe had cancer, the community is encouraging him to “fight like Heck.”

“Something like this. He’s the one that can beat anything,” Joe’s friend, Quinn Kroth, said.

If you visit the “Heart of Oklahoma” you will likely see T-shirts and bracelets in honor of Joe.

Week after week, if it is not a fundraiser, it is a simple gesture that brings Joe to tears.

“You think you’re a strong guy and, you know, the kids show up with a donation and you break down. Someone shows up with dinner, you break down. You talk to your kids, you break down.”

For someone who is used to being a town hero it is hard to accept the gifts. Joe says he cannot thank everyone enough.

“’I’m glad I live where I do. I’m glad I’m a small town firefighter.”

There will be a fundraiser for Joe on June 27 at The Rusty Knot in Purcell.

To find out how you can join his fight visit the Purcell Fire Department’s Facebook page.

Events will also be posted on The Rusty Knot’s page.

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