Terminally ill officer keeps patrolling community he loves: 'I j - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Terminally ill officer keeps patrolling community he loves: 'I just want to hold on'

Harrison Police Officer Marvin Gambill stays on patrol despite a Stage 4 pancreatic cancer diagnosis. (FOX19 NOW/Jennifer Edwards Baker) Harrison Police Officer Marvin Gambill stays on patrol despite a Stage 4 pancreatic cancer diagnosis. (FOX19 NOW/Jennifer Edwards Baker)
Harrison Police Officer Marvin Gambill Jr (www.gofundme.com) Harrison Police Officer Marvin Gambill Jr (www.gofundme.com)
Donna and Marvin Gambill at their wedding Sunday in Harrison. (Provided) Donna and Marvin Gambill at their wedding Sunday in Harrison. (Provided)

This December, Officer Marvin Gambill will mark his 30th year patrolling the rural, family-oriented town of Harrison, Ohio.

"I love it here. It's just what a little small town is supposed to be," he said.

Officer Gambill's passion for serving his community is helping him cope as he reels from a stunning diagnosis: Stage 4 pancreatic cancer that has spread to his liver.

Doctors told him he had anywhere from 6 to 9 months to live to possibly another two to five years.

His doctor broke the news last week after stomach pain led to a round of medical tests.

Officer Gambill, 56, is scheduled to begin chemotherapy Monday.

"It's a roller coaster of emotions. The only thing I can compare it to is it's like riding a bullet flying," he said.

"One day you're crying and then I'm cracking jokes about it. Sometimes I feel sorry for myself. Then I saw on TV some kid "Superbubz" graduating from Fairfield, he is 6-years-old with cancer and I think I haven't had it so bad after all. 

"If I said I wasn't afraid, I'd be lying to you, but I am more angry than afraid. I am angry because there are things that I want to get done that I'm not going to get done. I just want to hold on and make sure that my family is taken care of."

A Go Fund Me account is now accepting donations to help Officer Gambill and his family with medical bills.

"Your donations will help with those bills along with providing Marvin and his wife Donna some cushion to enjoy life, his GoFundMe page states.

So far, $3,695 has been raised toward a $10,000 goal.

Pancreatic cancer is especially deadly because it so often is not diagnosed until late stages, according to the American Cancer Society.

Officer Gambill immediately shared his diagnosis with his co-workers in close-knit department of 22 sworn officers.

Like most first responders, they are so close and spend so much time together, they consider each other family. 

"Since I've told them I've had this terrible disease, they've been amazing." he said.

Several attended his wedding to his longtime girlfriend at his home Sunday.

He never thought he would get married again.

"This is my second marriage. I was a confirmed bachelor and said there was no way," he said. "But when somebody tells you you have Stage 4 inoperable cancer, it kind of changes things a little bit.

"She called me Saturday afternoon and she says 'you want to get married? I have a preacher coming to the house at 4:30 p.m.'"

"I said 'OK, are you serious?'"

He called a co-worker and asked him to invite everyone at the police department.

"I expected a half dozen people, but looked around and suddenly there's like 70 people at my house," he recalled.

Now he's trying to enjoy as much time as he can with his family - the one at work and at home.

He plans to keep working as long as he can. He was even out making an arrest in front of the police department just before we arrived to interview him Thursday.

"People will tell me I ought to retire and do what I need to do. I am still feeling healthy enough that I can do my job," he said. "I want to make sure my family is taken care of because, sooner or later, I'm not going to be around to take care of them. So I need to take care of them first."

As he prepares to begin cancer treatment, he said he hopes the residents of Harrison remember to stop and appreciate all that they have.

"Every day is precious. Live life the best you can and enjoy it," he said. "You never know what's going to happen."

Word of Gambill's illness comes on the heels of a similar one for a veteran Hamilton County sheriff's deputy, Mike Ware.

The married father of three children was told last week he has Stage 4 pancreatic and liver cancer and expects to begin chemotherapy next week.

"I was dumbfounded," he said Thursday in a phone interview from Hocking Hills, Ohio, where he has been staying as he goes back and forth at the James Center Hospital at the Ohio State University State University Comprehensive Cancer Center.

"I just couldn't believe it. I'm not old. I'm 48. I'm one of the guys who doesn't smoke."

He hopes to complete his treatment quickly and return to his job patrolling Lincoln Heights.

He said he feels as though he is making a difference for the residents.

"They really came to embrace us and appreciate us and there was a lady last summer who, as we were patrolling down the street, stopped to talk to us and she explained this was the first summer in seven or eight years that she felt safe enough to come spend time at her grandmother's house and put out plants and things like that because the environment had been so bad she didn't feel safe."

He is understandably apprehensive when he thinks about starting chemotherapy.

"I joke all the time that I'm a cop and I'm a fairly big guy, but I have this thing about needles," he said. "Just talking about them makes my hand sweat. I wnat to get what needs to be done done, but the thought of it I am a little anxious about."

Another veteran Hamilton County sheriff's deputy, Tony Kelly has been battling cancer for two years. He was diagnosed with Stage 4 Mantel Cell Lymphoma.

During a recent doctor's visit, he learned his cancer has spread to his lymph nodes, stomach and liver.

A fundraiser for both Ware and Kelly is scheduled Dec. 9 The Woodlands, 9870 Cilley Rd., Cleves.

"I was floored when I heard about it," Ware said.

"The thing about working for the department is those guys are my family and I've known a lot of them for 20 years. These guys are my family and just the outpouring of care and thoughts and prayers has been overwhelming.

Sheriff's office rallies around cancer-stricken deputies

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