MOUNT CARMEL — There comes a point in everyone's life when we must all face challenges and struggles. The true test of one's courage and bravery is how each of us face those challenges and find the strength within to continue on the journey of life after being knocked down.
Mount Carmel Police Chief John Lockhart is already considered to be a brave and courageous individual spending most his life in law enforcement. His job, however, his not what defines his character or strength. The man who stands as a heroic symbol for serving and protecting a community, will now use his bravery and courage in the biggest fight of his life.
The police chief learned five years ago that he had Stage 2 Pancreatic Cancer. After having a tumor and 30 lymph nodes removed, he underwent multiple rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, Lockhart was told by doctors that he was in remission. However, last year during a yearly scan, doctors learned that there was cancer on Lockhart's lungs. He would once again fight cancer with chemotherapy and radiation beating the cancer beast for a second time.
Now, a year later, Lockhart began to experience a bad cough and pain in the chest area. Thinking it was pneumonia, Lockhart went to the doctor and after undergoing another scan, learned he now has Stage 4 Lung Cancer. Once again, beginning chemotherapy and radiation treatments to battle the recurring monster known as cancer for the third time in five years.
Not only has Lockhart faced a cancer prognosis three times, he has continued to work and serve the City of Mount Carmel during all three rounds of treatment. "Coming to work for me is therapy. I don't want to just be sitting at home doing nothing," Lockhart said.
Those who know Lockhart, know he is a very private person. Rarely discussing his private life or medical issues, however, he is stepping up now to bring awareness to the disease that keeps attacking his body.
"Pancreatic cancer is a sneaky cancer. The mortality rate is high because the there are no real symptoms and normally it is found too late to be cured," he said. "I was lucky because my tumor was located near a bile duct which caused me to turn yellow (a medical condition called jaundice). Pancreatic cancer is now one of the top four cancers with the highest mortality rate," said Lockhart.
Lockhart wants everyone to know, "it is very important to get a physical every year. If you begin having issues, don't ignore it, go see a doctor."
Lockhart has been in law enforcement for 21 years, he became the city's police five years ago right before the cancer diagnosis. The police department and city officials have been on this ride with him, supporting him the whole way. "The city has been real good to me. When I'm not feeling well or get tired they let me go home. Being police chief, a lot of my work is administrative so that allows be to continue working while I receive treatment," said Lockhart. "I will continue to work as long as I can," he continued.
The community is also supporting their local chief, which is humbling for the man who has spent his career serving and protecting those who live here. "You never know what a great place you live in until something like this happens. I could not ask for a better community to live in," Lockhart said.
There will be a John Lockhart benefit at the Mount Carmel VFW on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018 beginning at 3 p.m. There will be a dinner, silent auction and live auction. There will be nice ticket items up for auction including concert tickets to see Travis Tritt and Breaking Benjamin and a pair of St.Louis Cardinals vs. Cincinnati Reds tickets. Anyone who would like to donate items for the dinner or auction can contact Sandy Keneipp at 812-459-9113. Also messages can be sent through the Facebook page, Fight the Fight Chief.
Orders are also being taken for 'Fight the Fight' shirts, keychains and wristbands. Those can also be ordered through the Facebook page or by calling Keneipp.
There is also a meal train that has been created by Erin Peach to help the family with daily meals. The family will get to spend more time together eating and less time having to cook, it also helps the family financially. To schedule a day to provide a meal visit www.mealtrain.com/trains/k9mldv.
"There are no words to express how appreciative my family and I are. Everyone is being so supportive and we are very grateful," Lockhart said.
While Lockhart is humbled and grateful for the community support, the character of this brave man comes out again when talking about the support he is receiving. "I just want the community to realize there are a lot of people battling this disease. Others that get up everyday and fight cancer just like I do, they need support as well. If you know someone who is going through this make sure they also get the support they need."
Lockhart is not a hero because of the badge he wears, he is a hero because he chooses to show the world how to continue living while facing the biggest challenges in life. Bravery, courage and an undeniable love for the community in which he serves and protects are evident for all to see. Lockhart will not face this journey alone, for the community in which he serves, will be by his side, showing the world that amongst all things, it is love and generosity that get you and your neighbors though tough times, together as one.