McCrabb: Middletown pastor calls bladder cancer diagnosis ‘a blessing’

Pastor Lamar Ferrell served as master of ceremonies as special needs students from local schools were treated like royalty during “One Special Night” this year at Berachah Church in Middletown. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

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Pastor Lamar Ferrell served as master of ceremonies as special needs students from local schools were treated like royalty during “One Special Night” this year at Berachah Church in Middletown. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Lamar Ferrell looks at life differently.

Case in point: His cancer diagnosis.

On Oct. 24, Ferrell, pastor at Berachah Church in Middletown, was told he had bladder cancer, and while doctors informed him they successful removed three cancerous tumors and another patch of pre-cancer, he still faces six weeks of chemotherapy and a lifetime of uncertainty.

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Well, not really. While most of us — like those without Reverend in front of our name — would question why cancer chose to reside in our bladder, Lewis “Lamar” Ferrell III looks at the disease as “a blessing.”

Since he recently informed his church staff, leadership team and congregation about the bladder cancer and shared it with other local pastors, Ferrell has received numerous encouraging text messages, phones calls, letters and cards. People he hadn’t heard from in years have expressed their concern, and frayed friendships have been fixed.

In fact, Ferrell started compiling a list of the blessings in his journey.

Without the cancer diagnosis, none of this would have happened, he believes.

He said a pastor once wrote a book: “Don’t Waste Your Cancer.”

“I’ve learned God doesn’t waste anything,” he said. “I’m not bitter. I’m not mad. I’m not sad. I know this sounds odd, but I’m thankful.”

In early October, Ferrell, 51, started seeing blood in his urine. For a while he thought the blood was “just something that will go away.”

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Then he told himself: “It’s a sign something is not right.”

A cystoscopy, a procedure that allows doctors to examine the lining of the bladder, proved there was a problem.

Dr. John Walsh II, from the Urology Group, removed the tumors, then immediately sent Ferrell for a chemotherapy treatment at the Norwood Surgery Center. The follow-up CT scan revealed the cancer was gone but it was “highly invasive.”

That meant his medical team would “attack it way more aggressively,” he said.

So in December, Ferrell will start his six-week chemotherapy treatment called BCG, which stands for Bacillus Calmette-Guerin. That’s what it represents in medical journals, but in Ferrell’s world the acronym represents Because of Christ’s Glory.

“This is part of my story, part of my biography. I’m fully trusting Christ,” said Ferrell, whose father died of liver cancer and mother is a breast cancer survivor.

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Ferrell refers to cancer as the “little c.” Christ is the “Big C.”

As he told his congregation during a recent sermon: “I’m gonna kick ‘little c’s’ B.”

Maryanne, his wife of 22 years, remembers the day doctors said her husband had cancer. She immediately felt “a calmness and peace,” she said.

Those feelings were reaffirmed minutes later when she talked to her husband after surgery. He has always told his wife, and their children — Luke, 20, a junior at Liberty University, and Elley, 17, a junior at Middletown High School — that if he wasn’t worried, they shouldn’t worry.

But Maryanne admits it’s difficult hearing your husband has joined the “C Club,” she said.

“We have dealt with cancer with our families and so many other people in the community,” she said. “We have a lot of experience with stuff like this. We hear from people when they’re diagnosed, lost a job, or someone has been in an accident. I don’t want to say it’s part of the job, but it’s part of the calling.”

It was 28 years ago last month, while sitting in a small church in Springboro, that Ferrell said he gave his life to Christ. He went from being a medical doctor to being a minister. Monday will mark his 22nd year as a pastor.

“I just got my feet under me,” he said. “I don’t have a death wish. I feel like God is using this ultimately for His glory.”

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Ferrell never hesitated when asked about sharing his cancer journey. Some would prefer to be private. Ferrell wants to be an open book.

“I’m not hiding from this,” he said. “Sometimes in our privacy, we don’t give people an opportunity to pray and to see their prayers answered. The burden that I carry, I’m not carrying it alone. The more prayers the better.”

The cancer has taught Ferrell at least one lesson: He needs to slow down, a message echoed from his family. On Monday, his scheduled day off, he was preparing to leave the house when his wife asked where he was going.

He needed to make a hospital visit, he told her.

“My passion is to serve,” he said. “It’s very difficult for me to sit. I love to be in the soup, right there in the soup.”

For a man who preaches a lot about letters — little and big Cs — hopefully that’s alphabet soup he’s stirring.

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