LAURINBURG — During his 34 years in law enforcement, Sheriff Ralph Kersey has never been afraid of obstacles.
He continues to show bravery in the face of a hurdle that could possibly sideline his vocation. Kersey is confronting a diagnosis of kidney cancer.
“I can say that I really don’t fear what I’m fixing to face,” he said. “Sometimes I have questions, but I don’t fear in a sense of the outcome because I know who is Lord of my life, who always has been. I believe that in this life we go through trials that maybe the adversary intends to destroy us, but God always uses it for his glory.”
Unlike many health issues that come up, Kersey felt fine before his diagnosis. He and his wife, Angie, performed at the Dancing with the Scotland Stars benefit on May 19. After the performance, he started feeling pain and some nausea. He tried to tough it out but wound up at the hospital the following Monday thinking the pain was from something altogether different.
“I went to the emergency room expecting it to be my appendix. I was nauseated and sick for a couple of days,” Kersey said. “They did the scan and told me it wasn’t my appendix. It was my kidney and that I had a mass on it.”
By May 24, urology specialists had confirmed that the 5.6 cm mass was cancer, most likely stage I.
Kersey will have his pre-op appointment Monday and hopes to be scheduled for surgery to remove all or part of the kidney later in the week.
He will be required to spend five days in the hospital and take three to four weeks to recuperate.
Chief Deputy Lloyd Goins will serve as sheriff in Kersey’s stead.
“The sheriff’s office will be left in good hands. There’s nobody else that I know of that is more qualified than him to occupy the position while I’m absent,” Kersey said of his second in command. “He’s demonstrated his leadership. He truly has the experience, the knowledge and the education and understands what the vision of the sheriff’s office is.”
Goins has already served as sheriff while Kersey has been away at training sessions. Major Wayne Gay will assist Goins in his duties.
Kersey has sent a request to the county commissioners that they appoint Goins to serve as sheriff until the election if for some reason he has to step down before November. Kersey, a Republican is facing Democrat John Martin in the race for sheriff.
Should Kersey be able to continue running for re-election and win but have to step down later, the commissioners will appoint someone to the job for the remainder of the term, according to County Manager Kevin Patterson.
Like many grappling with a difficult health issue, Kersey was reluctant to share his problem with the public, but he felt the need to disclose his condition because of his position and his faith. He made the announcement on Facebook and was met with overwhelming support.
“Most people like to be private about things, but I was brought up in a family that strongly believed in prayer. My mom and dad were both Christians,” he said. “I truly understand that God hears a person’s prayers, but he tells us in his word about assembling together and the strength [in that] and how it builds our faith.”
Kersey has been touched by the outpouring of support from the community and his sheriff’s office family. He has received cards, prayer cloths, vials of holy water, and texts and private messages on Facebook.
“The words of encouragement that I have received, some of the private messages that I’ve received, testimonies of those that’s faced cancer, those that have faced kidney cancer and what their outcome has been have been very positive,” Kersey said. “It has given me a peace.”
He also draws strength for his wife and the rest of his family.
Kersey has leaned on his command staff for support, not only in the sense of the work they will do in his absence but for emotional support as well. One deputy in particular knows what Kersey is coping with right now. Gay has battled cancer and won.
“Wayne has been a shoulder for me to lean on because he has faced leukemia,” Kersey said.
In 2004, Gay was diagnosed with leukemia. The cancer was discovered as a result of a tooth that would not stop bleeding. He went through five weeks of chemotherapy at Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem.
“I ain’t going to tell a lie. I cried like a baby when I first heard about it, but the head doctor of research at Baptist Hospital assured me it was 80 percent curable,” Gay said.
He was given an experimental medication and is still in remission 14 years later. He shared his experience with Kersey and has offered to be there for the sheriff however he can.
“I had a lot of prayer from folks. It’s shocking when you first hear it, but when you’ve got people supporting you it helps you out,” Gay said. “I’ll help him in any way I can. I’ve told him we can talk about it. I told him what I experienced with the cancer treatment and chemo. Between myself in Chief Goins we will run [the office] like he would. He chose us to fill in the gap during his absence. I appreciate that he considered me. Anything he needs, we’ll be right there for him.”
Reach Beth Lawrence 910-506-3169