Heather Roberts and her family laughed their way through eight years of brain cancer.
They laughed through all the appointments and the constant travel to a doctor in San Francisco. They laughed through the weird effects of steroids. They laughed through the pain.
“They laughed because it was better than crying,” said Jean Koerten, a longtime family friend. “It’s pretty amazing,” she added.
Roberts, whose family has raised more than $700,000 for brain cancer research and awareness in Omaha, lost her battle with the disease on Nov. 8. She was 37.
“She was just one in a million,” Koerten said.
Roberts, the youngest of Jon and Sue Roberts’ three daughters, was diagnosed with brain cancer in April 2008. Shortly after, the family founded Leap-for-a-Cure. The organization aims to provide a network of support and funding for research for others in Roberts’ position.
“Heather wound up being a stronger person than we ever thought she would be,” said Sue Roberts, her mother. “Or anybody I know.”
Throughout the brain cancer fight, Roberts never complained, her mother said.
Roberts was social and charismatic. She was known for her positivity, her energy and her sense of humor.
As a child, Roberts was always the one making people laugh, her mother said.
She graduated from Millard North High School in 1998 and got her bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Nebraska at Omaha in 2003.
She worked in marketing for the Omaha Lancers for a time before joining Methodist Health System in 2009. Roberts started as a receptionist and worked her way up to a position she created overseeing the internal medicine department at Methodist Physicians Clinic in Regency.
She loved volunteering at Great Plains Pointer Rescue. She loved the rescue dogs she adopted.
Family was important to Roberts, and the family managed to go on a number of trips even throughout her treatment.
She never made anyone feel sorry for her, Koerten said.
Up until the end, she believed that a cure might come. She was convinced that she could be the one to hang on, Koerten said.
She told her mother, “Mom, you never know if that day’s going to be tomorrow. I can never give up.”
Roberts is survived by her parents; her sisters, Michele and Amy; her boyfriend, Michael Cunningham; her niece, Addison; and aunts, uncles and cousins.
Her funeral will be held today at 11 a.m. at Hope Presbyterian Church, 5220 S. 159th Ave.