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Drummer won’t let brain tumor derail his worship team commitment

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POSTED October 31, 2013 11:54 p.m.

Ronnie LeMay has been a drummer for the Christian Worship Center’s band for seven years. He plays the drums on Sunday and at the mid-week service. And he never fails to join the worship team once a week for practice.

Executive Pastor Kerri Smith is almost at a loss for words when she talks about LeMay’s singular dedication, commitment and strength of spirit.

“He’s an incredible man of faith and inspiration to many here,” she said about the 38-year-old husband and father of four young children.

LeMay’s commitment to doing something that many people find hard to accomplish on a voluntary basis is not what Smith finds incredible. It’s the fact the Manteca High School graduate has been doing all that since he was diagnosed three years ago with one of the most aggressive and deadliest form of brain tumors – glioblastoma multiforme, or simply GBM – and continues to do so all throughout his radiation and chemotherapy treatments.

 “To be honest with you, I can probably count on three fingers throughout his battle with his disease when he’s been unable to come to practice and had to leave because he was not feeling well,” Smith said.

In fact, she even remembers one time when “he had come to practice after a chemo treatment.”

It’s that courage, resilience and grace under pressure which has endeared LeMay not only to the faithful at Christian Worship Center on  Button Avenue in Manteca but also to many students, school staff, and teachers he has worked with during his years of working with the Manteca Unified School District. So much so that when doctors ordered him to go on a leave of absence at the end of September, and even though he was no longer working as the head custodian at Mossdale Elementary in Lathrop, the school went ahead and threw a school-wide birthday party in his honor. During that celebration, he was serenaded by the students and showered with greetings.

And that’s not all. On Saturday, Nov. 2, from 2 to 8 p.m., Mossdale School is playing host to a Festival of Music concert and dinner fund-raiser with the proceeds going to a trust fund that was opened for LeMay. The event will be held in the school’s multi-purpose room. Tickets are $5 for the concert only, and $20 for both concert and catered dinner.

Staff and students at Stella Brockman School in Manteca, where LeMay worked prior to working at Mossdale School, are also lending a helping hand to the fund-raiser. They are providing the drinks for the dinner.

Several of the guests who plan to attend the Mossdale fund-raiser include the staff at Christian Worship Center led by Senior Pastor Steve Perea and his wife, worship pastors Matthew Grant and Isaac Barragan, and Pastor Smith.

“He’s got an excellent spirit. We love him very much. He and his wife Laurinda are a blessing to us,” Smith said.

• • •

Bad seizure led to discovery of brain tumor

LeMay remembers vividly when the seizure happened three years ago which changed everything for him, although he does not have any memory of what transpired during the seizure when he lost consciousness.

“I went to bed that night. It was a bad seizure. Then I woke up with the medics on me,” he said.

It was his wife, Laurinda, who “caught me seizing; she freaked out” but had the presence of mind to call 9-1-1.

He was taken to Doctors Hospital in Manteca where he had a CT scan. “That’s how they found the tumor,” the size of an egg on the left side of his brain, he said.

He was given the choice of either having a biopsy first before surgery or to get the tumor out of his brain right away.

“I said, just take it all,” said LeMay.

He had the surgery on Feb. 4, 2011.

A test conducted after the surgery was promising. “(It) came back clear, and there were no headaches, nothing. So I pushed out as long as I could,” working until September, he said, when his doctors recommended he go on long-term disability. He still was able to drive, and still does, he said.

A battery of radiation and chemotherapy followed the operation. The first round of chemo was in the form of pills.

Unfortunately, after that first round, “a little part of the (tumor’s) root came back and that’s what they are focusing on right now,” he said, referring to the intravenous chemo treatment he is currently receiving every other Friday a week at Kaiser in Stockton that will continue through July of next year.

But he is fully aware of the grim statistics. “Not too many survive this kind of cancer,” he noted.

Still, he’s grateful for each tiny silver lining. “The tumor came back, but without the seizures,” said a thankful LeMay.

While he tries to remain positive, LeMay said his battle with the deadly disease has been “very rough on the family.” His wife, who works at Costco in Manteca, has taken a year off from her job to take care of him.

“She’s going back to work in February to keep her benefits,” he said. They are also “looking into (hiring) some nurses right now” to help the family.

He and his family are planning to attend the concert fund-raiser on Saturday. He is very moved that the students and school staff are doing this for him.

“I really appreciate the kids, doing what they do for me. But it’s sad because they think I’m coming back,” he admitted.

Born and raised in Manteca, LeMay went first to Nile Garden School and then to Brock Elliott Elementary when that campus was completed. He graduated from Manteca High in 1997. He and his wife Laurinda were married on September 14 this year. Together, they have four children – his children, Olivia and Jacob, attend Sierra High and East Union as a junior and sophomore, respectively; her two children ages 7 and 8 go to McParland Annex and New Haven.

Despite this setback in his life, LeMay continues to remain hopeful. For one thing, he has his worship family at Christian Worship Center. “They’re a great support team, with their prayers and different things like that,” he said. “I’m trying to keep a positive attitude.”

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