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Local business owner inspires courage

Staff Reports • Updated Aug 15, 2017 at 11:00 AM

To say that Rick Stewart is an involved member of the Lebanon community would be an understatement. 

He’s a business owner, longtime volunteer for the Wilson County Fair Board, and he’s also a two-time cancer survivor.

In 2011, Stewart was diagnosed with kidney cancer. While the diagnosis came as a shock to he and his wife, Debbie, his doctor reassured him it was beatable. After surgery to remove half of his kidney, Rick Stewart went right back to running his business, Signs Now.

Like most cancer patients, Rick returned annually for routine check ups that were always clear, but in the back of his mind he knew that it could always come back. And so it did. In 2014, a scan showed cancer in his lungs. The biopsy revealed there were, in fact, multiple spots, and it was inoperable.

Though the Stewarts were devastated by the news, Rick Stewart was determined to fight it. At the time, an aggressive treatment was available, but the doctor cautioned him most people were not strong enough to survive the treatment. “Let’s do it” was his response.

During the next several months, he would spend one out of every three weeks in the critical care tower at Vanderbilt. The side effects were tremendous. He lost most of the skin on his body, could barely eat and suffered violent body tremors. Even through all of this, Rick Stewart continued to work on the weeks he was home from the hospital.

“I had to concentrate on getting better,” he said. “With all of the awesome people I had in my life supporting me, how could I lose?” 

Amazingly, Rick Stewart did get better. With the next scan, the doctor discovered the tumors had shrunk. In September 2016, he had surgery to remove the tumors, and no live cancer cells were found.

Rick Stewart believes his story should be shared to encourage others. He has had multiple speaking opportunities, including Living Sent Ministries and in front of his own congregation at Immanuel Baptist Church. At both, his topic was courage and the gifts he received from God. One of those gifts for Rick Stewart, was the support received from Sherry’s Run, a local faith-based nonprofit that provides financial assistance for cancer patients and their families.

Sherry’s Run was able to assist the Stewarts with medical bills throughout his treatment. 

“Sherry’s Run gave me peace of mind. They understand the system. It was great knowing someone is on your side...an advocate,” he said.

“Rick and Debbie are such a blessing to work with. They have gone out of their way to give back and that is exactly what Sherry’s Run is all about,” said Alisa Eakes, Sherry’s Run patient assistance coordinator.

Now, Rick Stewart is taking advantage of the opportunity to “pay it forward.” As a supporter for the 14th annual Sherry’s Run 5K event, Signs Now is helping raise more funds to help future families who will face a difficult diagnosis. 

Registration is open at sherrysrun.org for the 14th annual Sherry’s Run/Walk event Sept. 9 at 8 a.m. at 623 W. Main St. in Lebanon. Support allows Sherry’s Run to assist cancer patients 52 weeks a year with gas, groceries, utility bills, housing payments, prescription assistance, health insurance premiums, medical bills and colonoscopy assistance.

To learn more about Sherry’s Run, call 615-925-2592. To refer someone who might qualify for assistance, call 615-925-9932 or visit sherrysrun.org.

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