A tough year ends: Roanoke County supervisor loses son to COVID, faces renewed cancer uncertainty | Govt and Politics

For Jason Peters, moving forward is the only option.

Whether it’s his protracted battle with cancer, or his son’s recent death from COVID-19, the chairman of the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors just goes on and on as a way to cope and a way to stay. doing what he loves most, serving his community.

Peters is described by his colleagues as someone who is highly focused and driven to move the province forward, especially in the face of such adversity.

Richard Caywood, who has worked for the county for years and will become the county trustee in February, said he is impressed not only with Peters continuing to carry out his duties for the county, but also with how well he is doing. did.

“I don’t know if I would be able to do what he does with all the weight on his shoulders,” Caywood said recently. “Not only does he show up and do his duties, but he has been instrumental in so many provincial initiatives in recent years.”

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Caywood said the economic development projects the county has undertaken in recent years, such as the 419 project, the revitalization of Vinton and the development of Explore Park, have been successful thanks to the efforts of many, but Peters has played an important role as well. .

“He’s always been one of those board members with the vision that the right public investment in the right place at the right time can deliver a lot of private sector investment,” Caywood said.

Born in Roanoke and a graduate of William Byrd High School and Virginia Western Community College, Peters has always called the Star City his home.

“I grew up about half a mile from where I live now,” he said from his desk at First Citizens Bank in Vinton, where he is the branch vice president.

He joined the board in 2014, but his desire to give back to the community began long before he was sworn in.

Growing up, he often accompanied his stepfather, who was a member of the Roanoke County Fire and Rescue Department, to various events and hung out at the station quite a bit, describing his time there as “very enjoyable” with a “family-like atmosphere” to it.

He would also help his grandparents with some of the care for their elderly neighbors in Stewartsville.

“I’ve always liked helping people. I stayed with my grandparents a lot, and it was an older community… My grandfather helped a bedridden neighbor and I always went with him. It was just something I always liked to do.”

So when he qualified, Peters became an EMT with the county in 1992 at the age of 16. Now 45, he has been a member for 29 years and is currently the Chairman of the Vinton First Aid Crew

Before being elected to the Board of Supervisors, he also served on the Planning Committee for several years before being asked to serve as a representative of the Vinton District for a seat on the Board of Directors.

“It was something I was approached for and was very interested in. I wanted to serve the community and help the county reach its potential,” he said.

In 2016, Peters found out that he had papillary thyroid cancer that had spread to the lymph nodes.

His team of doctors from Johns Hopkins Hospital in Maryland removed his thyroid and 31 lymph nodes on the left side of his neck, 16 of which were cancerous.

After the surgery, Peters also had radiation, but the cancer never went away completely. Since then, he has had regular visits to monitor his condition.

The type of cancer Peters suffers from grows slowly and needs to be monitored for several years after treatment, he said.

It was from the county boardroom podium at a November meeting where Peters gave his most recent update on his years-long battle with cancer, and the latest prognosis wasn’t ideal.

An emotional Peters shared with colleagues and those in attendance that his latest checkup revealed that the cancer that doctors said was likely in his body for a decade before he was originally diagnosed had progressed to persistent papillary thyroid cancer that is treatment resistant.

He will return to Maryland in January for a biopsy of the lymph nodes on the right side of his neck, he said recently.

“The best case is that the cancer is there and can be removed through surgery,” Peters said. If not, I will likely be sent to Sloan Kettering for further analysis and treatment options.

“It’s not ideal, but my team of doctors is very positive. My doctor told them not to be discouraged and that they have a lot of tools in the tool bag, but it’s kind of hard not to. I thought I had this thing beat four years after my first surgery.”

Not long after his announcement to the community, Peters faced what he has described as “by far the most difficult time of his life”.

His son, Nick Peters, died on December 13 due to complications from COVID-19.

Only 23, the Roanoke native worked as a long-haul tow truck driver and was described by his father as a generous, gentle giant.

“Hearing from many of the people he worked with that he was such a caring and giving person who would always help someone when they needed it, which was very moving because that’s the person we’ve always taught him to be ,” he said. .

Peters explained that the loss of one of his children is something that was unimaginable just recently.

“Losing a child is something no parent should go through,” he said. It leaves a void that will never be filled again,” he said.

Jason and his wife, Candye Peters, have eight children together, six of them, including Nick, from previous marriages.

The couple married 13 years ago after meeting at the church they belong to, Bonsack Baptist, and said faith played a big part in coming to terms with his diagnosis and the tragic loss of his son.

“I don’t understand how people get through things like this without faith and friends. It doesn’t take the pain away, but you always know that people will be there for you,” he said.

Peters also noted that the community support has been incredible for his family.

“I’ve had some rough days where I’m really down and people I don’t even know come to the couch and pray with me. It makes all the difference in the world.”

Candye said her husband is someone who has always been able to see the bigger picture, and moving forward despite the grief is now a necessity.

“There’s so much I don’t think you can give up when you have younger kids… Now with grandkids too, there’s too much here not to go through.”

Fellow board member Martha Hooker said she is amazed at how Peters has been able to carry himself and maintain his commitment to the county.

She described him as a dear friend who is a faith based person who adds humor to situations and is very pleasant to deal with and be with.

“He’s juggling a lot right now, and I think he’s trying to handle it all with calm and grace,” she said. “But I’m also convinced that it’s not easy to pigeonhole all the spinning records and all the things that are going on that are emotionally taxing. It’s a job few people can do and do as well as he does.”

Peters has used his job and position at the county to deal with his diagnosis, but now the need for a “welcome distraction” is greater than Peters could ever have imagined.

He said his son’s death makes him want to continue doing that a lot more.

“It certainly strengthens my determination. It makes you realize how fragile life is and that you have to use the time you have,” he said. “It makes me want to do everything I can while I’m still here.”

Peters has said that if his health ever got in the way of his duties, he would resign immediately.

“I wouldn’t want to be a distraction or a hindrance to the work the county is doing,” he said.

Caywood said that in addition to Peters’ ability to work through adversity, his concern for the community and for individuals is something he admires about the officer.

“He is often one of the key board members who goes out of his way to compliment the staff, which I have always appreciated,” he said. “That he thinks about the people on the front lines who do the work is something that always strikes me.”

Caywood said he could only hope to be as gracious as Peters has been through all his hardships, and that it was truly touching that the day after his son’s death, Peters still left a note for the board announcing that he supported Caywood ‘s promotion .

“I thought who would think of anyone else. I was touched by that,” he said. He set the example for what I would like to be in those circumstances that I don’t think I could realistically achieve.”

Peters said that while it’s hard not to think about the negatives in his life, he has so much to be thankful for and plans to continue his work for many years to come.

“I try not to dwell on it because if I spend my time on it, I’m depriving myself of other things that could be done,” he said. “I can’t control what I can’t control.”

“[Nick’s death] certainly strengthens my determination. It makes you realize how fragile life is and you have to use the time you have.”

Jason Peters

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