PEPPERELL — In his 11 years in charge, and over 30 years with the department, Pepperell Police Chief David Scott has faced a wide range of dangerous and complicated challenges, but none like the deadly threat he faces at 49 years old.
Scott recently announced he was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer that has spread to his liver and lungs.
He is making his battle public in an effort to lead others to take early detection more seriously. The lifelong Pepperell resident, who begins treatment at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute this week, said in a press release that he would likely have a better chance against the disease if it had been caught sooner.
“I am going to fight this,” Scott said in a press release announcing the diagnosis. “But other people shouldn’t have to if they get tested early enough and pay attention to the warning signs.”
Scott was diagnosed after seeking treatment for nothing more than some pain in his chest.
“I thought it was indigestion,” Scott said. “I had been experiencing some stomach issues for a while that I assumed was a stomach bug, and I thought the chest discomfort was part of it.”
Scott’s primary care doctor, upon being told of the pain, sent Scott to the emergency department at Nashoba Valley Medical Center to rule out a possible heart condition.
“My heart is fine,” Scott said, still using his sense of humor.
But tests run while Scott was seen by Dr. Gabriel Simon, NVMC’s chief of emergency medicine, discovered lesions on Scott’s liver and lungs and a blood clot. Scott was transferred to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston for more tests, and eventually a tumor was found in Scott’s colon. The tumor had already spread to his liver and lungs.
Scott’s grandfather died of colon cancer, but Scott had been previously told that he needed to wait until he was 50 years old to be tested. He was diagnosed at age 49.
“There are options for early testing now that doctors and insurance companies really need to embrace. Obviously, I don’t know where this journey is going to take me, but there would have likely been a greater chance at a better outcome if we found this earlier,” Scott said. “It’s best to catch it before you have symptoms, but if you don’t, paying attention to your symptoms could save your life.”
Scott plans to continue serving as the police chief, and said there will be no change in the level of service to the public thanks to a “great team of very capable people” and support from family friends. Scott is a North Middlesex Regional High School graduate who first became an auxiliary police officer in Pepperell over 30 years ago, earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a master’s degree in criminal justice and criminology during his career.
Pepperell Town Administrator Andrew MacLean said both he and the Select Board are concerned only about Scott’s health.
“We will do everything we can to help and support the chief and his family through his battle in the days ahead,” MacLean said. “Chief Scott has spent his career in Pepperell pursuing his dream to work in law enforcement and he has done so in an exemplary fashion.”
Tyngsboro Police Chief Richard Howe said he has gotten to know Scott through meetings with the Northeastern Middlesex Law Enforcement Council, as well as training events, and he said Scott is showing leadership in his battle with cancer just like has in law enforcement.
“We are all devastated to hear about his cancer diagnosis, and stand ready to assist him and his family with whatever they need while he fights this,” Howe said. “Chief Scott is a good man, is an outstanding leader in his community, and has a strong circle of family and friends to support him. He showed his true leadership by sharing his diagnosis in the hope that it would help others to have early detection of this terrible disease.”
The American Cancer Society lists the following warning signs for colorectal cancer:
- A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool, that lasts for more than a few days
- A feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that is not relieved by having one
- Rectal bleeding with bright red blood
- Blood in the stool, which might make it look dark brown or black
- Cramping or abdominal (belly) pain
- Weakness and fatigue
- Losing weight without trying
Scott has long donated to the Jimmy Fund, and plans to continue to do so even as he is cared for and treated at the cancer institute that the fund supports.
“I walked the Jimmy Fund Walk last year with my fellow police chiefs to support Dana-Farber and all the great things they do there. I am grateful that they have taken me on as a patient and will be supporting me in this fight,” Scott said. “I’ve already signed up for the 2021 Jimmy Fund Walk and hope to make the walk for many years to come.”
To contribute to Scott’s 2021 Jimmy Fund Walk campaign, visit: http://danafarber.jimmyfund.org/goto/ChiefDavidScott.