Rollinsford, NH – Just weeks after joining the department, a 26-year-old police officer learned he had been diagnosed with stage four colon cancer.
“I mean, I’m 26,” Officer Shawn DePasquale told WFXT. “[I] didn’t expect to come down with this.”
Officer DePasquale graduated from the New Hampshire Police Standards and Training Academy approximately three weeks before he received his diagnosis.
“I graduated Dec. 15, 2017 [and] I was diagnosed in mid-January,” Officer DePasquale told Fosters Daily Democrat. “A friend says, ‘Sometimes you are the train, and sometimes you are the track.’”
“You hear you have stage four cancer and immediately everything just fades out,” he told WFXT.
The tumor in his colon was recently removed successfully, but Officer Pasquale must continue to receive chemotherapy to battle the cancer that spread to his liver, according to his fundraising page.
"It’s a combination of chemotherapy. I went through five weeks of radiation five days a week and then the chemotherapy, the surgery, and now starting the chemotherapy for the liver," Officer DePasquale told WFXT. "A positive attitude and some strong fighting music seems to do the trick for me."
Officer DePasquale, who is engaged to be married, hadn’t been with the force long enough to accrue the time off he needed to continue receiving pay while he battled the disease.
“Being the new guy on the force, his vacation time, his sick time was quite limited,” Rollinsford Police Chief Bob Ducharme said.
The department and community rallied behind the sick officer to help raise funds to offset some of the financial burden associated with his treatment.
A silent auction, raffle, and potluck event was held on Friday, and more than $40,000 had been donated to Officer DePasquale’s fundraising account as of Monday morning.
"I've just been so humbled by this whole experience that so many people have reached out to help, especially in this day and age where there’s a lot of anti-law enforcement right now," Chief Ducharme told WFXT.
New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu was among those in attendance at the young officer’s fundraiser on Friday night, Fosters Daily Democrat reported.
“This is a great example of how New Hampshire is so community driven,” Sununu told the news outlet. “It’s not about the government doing everything. We rely on friends and neighbors and it’s not political. It’s what makes New Hampshire so special.”
Retired Dover Police Officer Frank Santin is also the board chairman for the Elks, which organized Officer DePasquale’s recent benefit dinner.
“I am pleased that our small community comes forward when someone is in need,” said Officer Santin, who underwent surgery for his own cancer diagnosis in June. “This came about because of the generous nature of many. It was not one big sponsor. It was a lot of small ones – businesses and individuals – many who didn’t even know Shawn.”
Officer DePasquale said he is appreciative of all the help he has received, and that he is optimistic that he will be able to serve his community for many years to come, WFXT reported.
“Medical expenses are not cheap,” he told Fosters Daily Democrat,” But the way people have rallied around me is amazing. I’m getting letters, Facebook messages, from people all over.”
Although his treatment is ongoing, Chief Ducharme said the agency is glad Officer DePasquale has been able to return to duty.
“Shawn is back at work and so positive,” the chief said. "He is still undergoing treatment and in three weeks they will evaluate him again and we will go from there.”