Pastor battles cancer but never misses a sermon
July 12 2002 by Laura Prevatt , Independent Tribune

Pastor battles cancer but never misses a sermon | Friday, July 12, 2002

Friday, July 12, 2002

Pastor battles cancer but never misses a sermon

By Laura Prevatt Independent Tribune

Pastor Cam Ervin hasn't stopped preaching. Through chemotherapy, radiation and now, a cutting edge treatment at Duke University Medical Center, he's always made it back in time for Sunday's sermon.

In February, Ervin was diagnosed with cancer. Not long after, doctors removed a tumor the size of a lemon from the right side of his brain.

The prognosis was a virtual death sentence. Doctors warned Ervin that he had the most aggressive kind of brain tumor. They gave him only 12 months to live.

But none of this seemed to be bad news for him.

"I have learned to be content in whatever circumstance I find myself in," he said.

Ervin's sister-in-law happened to be an old colleague of a leading neuro-oncologist at Duke. She told the doctor about Ervin's diagnosis.

Dr. Henry Friedman, who is working on a revolutionary treatment for cancer, asked Ervin to participate in a clinical study.

Ervin agreed, making the commitment to have all of his 33 treatments at Duke. He is hoping the treatment will increase his life expectancy by two or three years.

On Sunday nights, Ervin drove from his home in Concord to the hospital in Durham. During the week, he stayed with his brother who lives not far from Duke.

For seven grueling weeks, five days a week he endured simultaneous radiation and chemotherapy treatments. He also became the third person to test the new treatment, a complicated procedure meant to boost the immune system.

He has completed all three of the treatments and had some dendritic cells removed from his body recently to be tested to see what effect the injections have had on his system and the cancer. No one knows what effect, if any, the new treatment will have on his body.

He will now begin chemotherapy treatment - three different chemotherapy drugs will be administered over a 12-month period. In addition, he will have MRI's every 3 months to monitor the growth of the cancer.

On Fridays during treatment, Ervin drove home to deliver his sermon at First Baptist Church in Mount Pleasant.

He keeps a detailed voice message on the answering machine at the church, sometimes calling in from his hospital bed. His parishioners call to find out if he's alive and well.

Ervin also keeps a scrapbook filled with pictures of the doctors, nurses and staff at the hospital. He documents his treatments and chronicles every step.

But Ervin is determined not to be just another patient. He's also on a spiritual quest.

"My mission for the next two years is not to get healed of cancer," he said. "There will not be a single doctor or nurse or valet that's not going to hear about my faith in Jesus."

He hands out a small booklet called Steps to Peace with God. He gives it to everyone he meets, hoping to reach them or inspire them with his story.

A book that has ministered to Ervin during his hospital stays, which was given to him, is A Bend in the Road, by David Jeremiah.

Ervin has lost his hair from the treatments and a prominent scar curves out about six inches above his ear. Doctors were unable to remove the entire tumor.

He describes the mass as a hand. It's the fingers that remain imbedded in his brain; to remove them would be too risky.

Still, he smiles. Ervin said the doctors are always remarking on how much he smiles, how upbeat he is.

"If I knew I was going to die in 12 months, I'd still be smiling," he said. "There is always hope in the midst of hopelessness."

Ervin's first brush with cancer came almost 10 years ago when his mother died as a result of a malignant brain tumor.

She was 65 when she died and in the prime of her life, Ervin said. She is one of the reasons he agreed to try the new treatment.

"The possibility of me being on the cutting edge, of saving thousands of lives, is the ultimate reward," Ervin said. "We could find out that it's the cure for cancer."

As a preacher Ervin uses his illness to drive home a point in many of his sermons.

"One word sums up the past four months," he said. "Sovereignty. God is in complete control."

His congregation has rallied around him and the community has shown a great deal of kindness to him and his family.

He drives a car that was anonymously donated to him. Church love offerings have helped him pay expensive medical bills. And someone started a college fund for his daughter Brittany, who recently graduated from Mount Pleasant High School.

Something must be working, he said. People have responded to his story.

"I am able to hear things now that most people hear when they die. I guess maybe I've earned that right."

When asked why he thinks people have responded so generously to his illness and treatment - with gifts, cards and words - he said that "God is so good, and after you minister to people for a long period of time they want to love you back, and I have surely experienced this over the past months."

(EDITOR'S NOTE - This article was reprinted with permission from the June 2 edition of the Independent Tribune in Kannapolis.)

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7/12/2002 12:00:00 AM by Laura Prevatt , Independent Tribune | with 0 comments
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