WATERVILLE – Former police Sgt. Jeffrey Bearce has met some tough challenges as a cop on the street — though none as tough as the personal crisis he faces now.

Bearce, 50, has leukemia, and is awaiting a bone marrow transplant.

He was diagnosed with the disease in 2009. “It was devastating,” Bearce said Friday at his Waterville home.

Last year, he spent 53 days in the hospital during chemotherapy, coming home at intervals to get stronger for the next round.

He expects to have the bone marrow transplant early next month at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H.

His sister and donor, Lisa Mitchell of Winthrop, said she was glad to learn she was a match for her brother, who is six years older. They grew up in a family of seven; she was the youngest.

“Jeffrey is the one that always watched over me and if I needed something, he was there, ” she said. “He was always easygoing and easy to talk to. We’ve always teased each other, so it is kind of ironic that he’s going to have my blood.”

Bearce started as a patrolman with the police department in 1988 after working for the Winslow police and Kennebec County Sheriff’s Department.

Waterville Police Chief Joseph Massey started as a patrolman in Waterville around the same time, and he and Bearce became not only fellow officers but good friends.

“I can tell you Jeff is probably one of the most streetwise cops that I know,” Massey said Friday. “He really worked hard to develop a network of people out there that provided him with information where he solved probably more crimes than any officer I know. He was absolutely tenacious when it came to trying to solve serious crimes.”

Massey said that when the pressure was on to get a serious crime solved, Bearce was tapped for the job and got it done.

“I can’t say enough about his work ethic,” Massey said. “I can’t say enough about his knowledge, street smartness. He was a good supervisor. He is definitely a go-to guy.”

Maine State Police Lt. Donald Pomelow worked with Bearce many years ago in Kennebec County. Pomelow said Bearce was a go-getter and a hard worker.

“He’s always been community-friendly. He’s the type of person who works with the public and is very supportive of the public and the community.”

Waterville police Sgt. Bill Bonney describes Bearce as one of the most dedicated employees he knows. “We’re all probably dedicated, but he takes that to a new level,” Bonney said.

Bearce came in on days off and missed family dinners and birthday parties to help the department, which was top priority, according to Bonney.

Bonney and the other sergeants are now paying Bearce’s medical insurance. It stopped when Bearce was terminated from his job Feb. 18 after he ran out of sick time and was unable to work.

His sick time expired earlier during his illness and city employees donated 500 of their vacation hours to hold him over, Bearce and Bonney said.

Sitting in his living room Friday morning, Bearce said the support from fellow police and city employees has been heartwarming.

He said he is tired much of the time and describes the feeling as like having worked “three doubles in a row.” He has lost his hair and 25 pounds, and cannot yet taste food, but he remains upbeat.

“We’ve got a good attitude,” he said. “We know it’s going to work out. Every day we look at it as just one day closer to recovery.”

His wife, Joanna, who runs a day care business, said they are overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of friends and well-wishers who are helping them to get through a difficult time. The couple have two grown sons, Justin and Jayson, who also have provided much support.

Many people post inspiring notes on a Facebook page called Supporting Sgt. Jeff Bearce, which includes updates on his progress. Bearce said when he is in the hospital and feeling low, those posts serve to prop him up.

In November, doctors told him he was in remission and he planned to go back to work, but in February, the leukemia returned, he said. He went back into the hospital on Valentine’s Day and recently was released to come home.

Bearce says he misses police work and hopes to return to it one day.

“You go from working 60 or 70 hours a week to nothing,” he said. “I do miss it. It was part of my life. I really miss the guys, and the camaraderie.”