Man learns to overcome adversity, one step at a time

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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) -- A Rapid City, South Dakota man is a high achiever in nearly every area of his life.

But perhaps his most inspirational achievement is happening right now.
He's facing adversity and overcoming it, one step at a time.

Sean McPherson is a humble guy who seems to end every sentence with a sincere smile. He's many things to many people.

"Married my high school sweetheart. We've been married 27 years," said McPherson, a South Dakota state representative, pastor and veteran. "We've had about 24 foster care kids come through our home. Our two youngest children came from South Dakota Foster Care as adopted children."

He joined the Navy right out of high school and worked on submarines.

"My very first deployment on the USS Florida was when we declared war on, the first time, during Desert Storm when Saddam was lighting all the oil rigs on fire," he said.

He's been the Senior Pastor at Real Life Church in Rapid City since 2010. And in November, he was elected to the South Dakota House representing District 32.

"Loving every minute of it. It's fun," he said. "I enjoy the debate, the banter and it's just a way, that I can give back."

But late last summer, less than a year ago, he woke up one morning with what felt like a cramp in his right calf, so he stretched it out and ignored it.

"You couldn't see the knot probably in that August time," McPherson recalled. "But by September or October rolled around and, it was starting to get quite large in my right calf and I looked at my wife and said, 'I might need to go to the doctor,' and she said, 'You might need to go to the doctor now.'"

Long story short, he ended up at the Mayo Clinic where he was diagnosed with a Sarcoma tumor in that right calf, but was able to come back home to Rapid City for treatment.

"Went through nine chemo treatments, lost my hair, lost my appetite. Only thing I didn't lose was the tumor. It actually, during nine treatments, grew five more centimeters," he said.

Even so, he managed a smile.

"But yeah, so February 13th, I was diagnosed with cancer. May 3rd, I lost my leg to cancer, but happy to report I'm cancer free, you know," McPherson said. "And so, a whole life with one leg is better than half a life with two, right?"

Just like that, his life would change. He wouldn't stay in a hospital bed for long. That was just two months ago, and here he is, comparing his situation to sports.

"Everybody gets injured, and there's a protocol to healing an injury and getting back in the game and this was just an injury, and there was a protocol to healing the injury and getting back in the game," he said.

He cruises around the church with his crutches and temporary prosthetic leg, like he was born with it.

"My identity is secure in who I am as a child of God. Regardless if I have one leg or five legs, that's who I am," McPherson said.

Perhaps in the midst of his most inspirational achievement of all: not only talking the talk, but walking the walk.

"Everybody goes through new normals in their life; it's just simply a season. Everybody's in a season, good or bad, and the reality of seasons is they end, and there's a new season that comes," McPherson said.

He jokes about a sign from the church youth group.

"There's some irony to the sign. Its says 'Kick cancer's butt.' That's when I had two legs so that becomes a little harder now," he said.

He still chooses to have fun.

"The kids get a kick out of it, well figuratively, I suppose. So then I have a built in footstool, and then they like it when you just sort of, let it swing," McPherson said.

Teaching by example, and remaining true to his faith.

"I mean, He rose His son from the grave. A leg and cancer are pretty small potatoes compared to that. I'm gonna trust that guy," he said.

And he's confident about the future.

"I want to establish this new normal. I want to be the dad that plays catch with his boy and be the husband that helps around the house, be the pastor that leads a great church, be the legislator that loves South Dakota," he said.

One thing you may not think of: using crutches to stay up, you can't use your hands to hold a cup, or play ball. But he's expected to get his new, much more realistic prosthetic leg in a few weeks. And after a little practice, he can set aside the crutches for good.

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