In late 2017 and early 2018, Central Baptist Church Pastor Chad Fugitt began to have what could only be described as “overwhelming moments of disorientation.”
They’d last about 30 seconds, after which he’d have a strange, metallic taste in his mouth.
The story of what came after these episodes was the subject of his message Tuesday afternoon at the monthly membership luncheon of the Southern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, held at The Corbin Center.
“I certainly didn’t know what was going on in my body, but I knew something wasn’t right,” Fugitt told the group during a gripping, 30-minute recounting of his recent life-or-death struggle with cancer.
Doctors eventually diagnosed Fugitt with a golf ball sized, cancerous tumor in the left front lobe of his brain — the area that controls speech.
“Those moments of disorientation were actually seizures, and my life was instantly turned upside down,” Fugitt said.
He described the harrowing eight-hour surgery he underwent at the Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke University. For seven hours of the procedure, he was awake … his head bolted to a table while world renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Allan H. Friedman ground away the tumor. He could hear it all. Initially, doctors hoped to get 80 to 90 percent of the tumor. In the end, all of it was removed.
Fugitt was out of the pulpit for five weeks, but returned on Easter Sunday 2018 to preach following the surgery.
He titled Tuesday’s speech “Brain Cancer: My Gift from God,” and said the reality-shifting experience changed his outlook on life. While he wouldn’t wish cancer on anyone, he said he wouldn’t change his medical challenges during the past year because it has deepened his faith, and has drawn him closer to his own family and friends.
“Trials are our friends,” he said. “People would always kind of look at me cockeyed when I’d say that. But I’d say to them in response, I don’t know what you call someone that draws me closer to Jesus and my wife and family.”
“Your trials you are walking through right now, those are not your enemies,” he added. “If you will open your eyes and have a different perspective, your trials are your friends.”
Fugitt also told chamber members that life, every aspect of it, “is a gift from God.”
After the diagnosis, he took the morbid steps of getting a living will, picked out a coffin and planned his own funeral.
“I can’t tell you what it’s like to be alive when you think you are going to die,” he said.
He said he is much more keenly aware of things he used to just take for granted — things like sweet iced tea at his favorite restaurant, UK basketball, Corbin football and his church family.
“Your life is filled with these gifts. I took those things for granted before this because I was alive and I expected to live.”
Numerous tests have shown Fugitt to be cancer free in the last year and a half. He’s pastored the historic Corbin church for the last eight years and is one of the founders of the Love Loud initiative. Additionally, he makes frequent mission trips to Peru and was recently nominated to be President of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
Fugitt is the latest in a string of prominent local pastors who have spoken to the chamber in recent years. Former First Baptist Church of Corbin minister Austin Carty and New Hope Ministries Church of God Pastor Mike Addison have also been featured speakers at chamber luncheons.