Inspire Dayton: This Miamisburg pastor ‘gives from the heart’ while battling cancer

Pastor John Corcoran, was diagnosed with cancer, but still helps the church and first responders. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF
Pastor John Corcoran, was diagnosed with cancer, but still helps the church and first responders. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF

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On Mother’s Day Pastor John Corcoran decided he wasn’t going to sit in his recliner that morning despite his debilitating pain — he was going to give a sermon.

At the beginning of 2020, he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He had been mostly confined to the chair after experiencing horrible pains.

“I can’t tell you why, but I just made my mind up that I was going to go to church and I was going to preach that morning,” Corcoran said.

Billie Jo Miniard, who goes to Rejoicing Life Church of God in Miamisburg where Corcoran is pastor, said he has been inspiring to watch as he battles cancer and continues to give of himself.

“He’s so selfless,” Miniard said. “Even when he’s sick, he’s there to help.”

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The Dayton region is known for coming together in tough times to help one another. Throughout December, the Dayton Daily News will tell the stories of people who have inspired others during this challenging year.

Miniard said Corcoran helped her pay for training to become a chaplain.

“He’s invested a lot in me,” she said.

Corcoran worked as a counselor at Kettering Behavioral Medicine Center for more than two decades. Miniard said he still sees some clients like herself on an on call basis. Corcoran has helped her over the past six years to overcome depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, Miniard said.

“He’s taught me to love people who are hard to love,” Miniard said. “He’s taught me to love how God loves, unconditionally.”

Miniard now works with people who have addiction issues and said Corcoran has been a great mentor and help when it comes to answering questions or getting those in need connected to resources.

“When I have a question, he’s always right there — even when he’s sick,” Miniard said.

His cancer diagnosis has not stopped 73-year-old Corcoran from supporting others in the various roles he continues to play.

“When it’s your calling and you love it, you keep on doing it,” Corcoran said. “I’m fully aware that (someday) I’m going to have to, you know, redefine, who I will be and where I fit in the community and everything.”

Corcoran is a licensed addiction counselor and before the pandemic was meeting with a group at an inpatient faith-based rehab center. Corcoran is also clinical director for the Southwest Ohio Critical Incident Stress Management Team, which helps debrief and de-escalate first responders after a traumatic incident.

He was in the Air Force, working in the Dayton recruiting office, and living in Xenia when the 1974 tornado tore through town.

“At the time, there was no debriefing process. And I know people’s lives just crumbled,” Corcoran said. “The five people that are closest to me, mine is the only marriage that stayed intact.”

Corcoran went to Europe for several years with the Air Force and when he came back he started doing training in the hospital setting for clinical pastoral education.

“I learned about crisis and stress management debriefing, got interested and took the courses and I’ve been doing it for 21 years now,” he said.

Even though he is a mental health professional, Corcoran said 2020 has weighed on him, too.

“It’s OK to be not OK,” Corcoran said.

He said he encourages people in his church and in other communities to “form an alliance” with someone they can trust.

“People need someone they can talk to and let them know what they’re feeling and what they’re thinking. If they don’t, it’s just going to stay there, it’s going to become worse,” Corcoran said.

Corcoran said his biggest struggle in 2020 was a surgery on his spine that made his pain worse for about eight weeks.

“I was a little bit discouraged there, but I had several people I could talk to,” he said. “As a pastor, if I would deny that I had those feelings, I would be of no help to people. I would be of no use. The cancer and the pandemic gave me the opportunity to say, ‘Wow, this is what all this training has been about.’”

In addition to the other volunteer roles he has, Corcoran said he is a senior trainer for the Church of God International. He trains community service chaplains.

Lucas Vanausdoll, a chaplain for the West Carrollton fire department and member of Rejoicing Life Church, said Corcoran trained him.

“He inspires me. He’s just a phenomenal guy,” Vanausdoll said. “He’s never lost faith in God through all of this.”

Vanausdoll said when the fire department adopts a family to get dinner or gifts, Corcoran always helps them get things together and gives money to the effort.

“He just gives from the heart,” Vanausdoll said. “He is in it for the right reasons.”

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Vanausdoll said he has seen Corcoran take a family with four kids in and treat them like his own.

“My kids call him grandpa,” Vanausdoll said. “He’s an inspiration for the youth, too.”

Corcoran’s daughter died from suicide in 1998. That tragedy helped him become a better pastor and mental health counselor, he said. His cancer diagnosis has helped him to breathe more and appreciate life.

“Most of my life experiences have changed the way I do things,” he said. “I keep on.”

Corcoran said his pastoral team and his church family help him keep on. He has members of his team who check on him nearly every day, he said, and he couldn’t do what he does without their support.

“If we had more people like him (in the world) it would be a great, good place,” Miniard said.

Inspire Dayton

Throughout the month of December, the Dayton Daily News will tell the stories of people who have persevered and inspired others during this challenging year. Read all the stories at DaytonDailyNews.com/inspire-dayton. Tell us who inspired you in 2020 by emailing jordan.laird@coxinc.com.