Candace Dunbar and her family find themselves knowing firsthand what it is like to have the Chillicothe community rally around them.



“The biggest thing is the love and support from the community,” said Dunbar about her cancer experience. “They have gone above and beyond — delivering food, my co-worker’s organizing a benefit, cards, money — it’s just amazing.”


Candace Dunbar and her family find themselves knowing firsthand what it is like to have the Chillicothe community rally around them.

“The biggest thing is the love and support from the community,” said Dunbar about her cancer experience. “They have gone above and beyond — delivering food, my co-worker’s organizing a benefit, cards, money — it’s just amazing.”

With signs about her benefit on Saturday around town, and posters inside stores, it took the family a little getting used to as they switch sides.

“It’s crazy. We were the ones who were sending cards (to other people),” said Dunbar. Her oldest son thinks they are famous.

Diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer in November at the age of 31, Dunbar is currently receiving chemotherapy once a week until the end of June. She already had a radical, bilateral mastectomy, before starting chemotherapy and faces reconstructive surgery, radiation and a hysterectomy in the future.

Getting to a diagnosis was a challenge itself.

During a regular checkup, her gynecologist found a thickening in her breast one and one-half years before she was diagnosed with cancer. The doctor, whom she had seen for a number of years, said she was too young to have cancer and would not want to be faced with the treatment options. She was concerned because of her family’s history: both her aunt and grandmother had breast cancer. Dunbar later tested positive for the BRACA I gene.

“I think he just kinda blew me off,” said Dunbar.

When she felt a pimple on her breast and then a lump, she knew it had to be checked out. Within a week or so, she had an appointment, mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy.

Now with a different doctor, she told Dunbar it did not look good.

“We were hopeful, but she used the word ‘concerned,’” Dunbar said.

A short time later, she was diagnosed with lobular cancer, in which the cancer begins in the milk glands and is harder to detect. It usually does not form a lump but is a thickening of the breast, according to information on Mayo Clinic’s website.

Dunbar said one thing she had learned, and thought others should know, is “trust your doctor but follow your instincts.”

After explaining her medical situation with her family around her Thursday afternoon at her home, Dunbar’s attitude remained positive. “But here we are. The prognosis is good.”

With the community cheering her on, she finds those at home her biggest inspiration.

“The boys are a big inspiration for me — they keep me on my toes,” said Dunbar. Married to her high school sweetheart, Taylor, for 12 years this year, she and her husband have two boys, Carson, 7, and Caiden, 3.

Though the diagnosis would be hard for anyone to swallow, she and her family take things as they come, and she and her husband joke their situation could be a country song.

“Every time we get bad news, we just laugh,” said Taylor.

When Dunbar was first diagnosed, their yard was torn up due to a sewer problem, which required more work than they had previously thought. Taylor’s truck needed new tires. Their dachshund, Ella, had her back end go out. They said they thought she might have to be put down because of the breed problem.

Luckily, Dunbar has been the office manager for Chillicothe Veterinary Clinic for almost 12 years. Pulling a team from all of its clinics to work on the Dunbars’ pet, Ella is now fine.

A few weeks ago Taylor needed gall bladder surgery, and returned to work at Caterpillar Inc. recently.

Dunbar also was off of work for about six weeks after her surgery and then worked part-time as the effects of the first set of chemotherapy drugs left her exhausted. Now that she is feeling better on the last chemotherapy drug, she is trying to work full time.

The experience has left her learning a few things about herself.

“I think I’m a lot stronger,” she said, with her husband piping up emphatically, “Uh, huh.”

Asking her why she thinks that, “Just because I’ve learned to deal with things,” she said with a few tears.

Her husband chimed in, “(She’s) definitely not a complainer. She hasn’t whined once — pretty impressive.”

When she was diagnosed, she had lots of thoughts about how she would deal with everyday life.

“That’s one of the things I thought: How am I gonna be a good mom, a good wife. That’s why I’m so thankful that I’m not so sick from these treatments. Taylor has played a huge role, he’s basically Mr. Mom.”

They both could not express their thankfulness enough for her co-workers organizing dinners for them after she had surgery. Every night for six weeks, usually sometime between 5:30 and 6 p.m., dinner would be brought to their door.

“It’s a great feeling that people reach out and support you,” Dunbar said. “People that we haven’t even met sent cards or donations.”

Her love for her job, co-workers and those who walk in the door at the vet clinic is evident as she said, “They’re like a second family.”

With bills mounting from her treatment, as well as both of them not working at times, and all the incidentals, the family’s finances are a struggle. But when they are not sure how they will pay for something, another donation will show up to help them out.

The Dunbars are constantly amazed at the generosity of strangers. The sister of Dunbar’s co-worker put on a dodgeball tournament at Midland High School in Lacon to raise funds for her.

“For somebody that doesn’t even know us, I think that’s awesome. I don’t know anybody from Lacon. That’s just awesome,” said Dunbar.

Dunbar wants residents to know a few things through her story.

“Trust your instincts. And, when you’re first diagnosed, people give you your space. A huge thing is that friends and family don’t stop calling. They need to keep in touch. Chillicothe is just an awesome town to live in — the small town.”