My story begins on Labor Day weekend of 2014. While camping with my wife in a nearby state park, I had a coffee ground textured bowel movement. I immediately knew this meant that I was bleeding from an unknown internal place, but I couldn’t call the doctor until Tuesday due to the holiday.
After visiting my doctor and undergoing an endoscopy and colonoscopy, I was informed the doctors found a quarter-sized spot in the lining of my stomach; the spot was 84% healed. The doctor assured my family and I that they did a biopsy, and told us “not to worry” as there was only a 1% chance that it could be cancer.
I celebrated my 50th birthday the next day, and two days after the original appointment, October 1st, 2014, my world changed.
I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma in my stomach. I received 20 days of radiation, and can now say I am 2 years and 6 months’ cancer free. However, I still receive an endoscopy every 6 months.
Throughout my firefighting career, I received very little training on ‘cleaning up’ after a fire scene, and what I did learn was well into my career. I am a walking testament of the dangerous toxins firefighters are exposed to.
I am beyond blessed with an awesome family, a brotherhood who stands by me, and an outstanding medical team. Every day, I had a fellow firefighter or family member drive me an hour to and from radiation so that I didn’t have idle time to think about my situation.
The increasing number of resources available to educate firefighters, combined with more people talking about the issue of cancer, is helping get the word out. Protection is the best medicine. I’m now retired from the fire service, and enjoying life cancer free. Thank you, and God bless.
If you, a brother or sister, or a loved one in the fire service, has been diagnosed or has battled with cancer, your unique experience could help guide others to begin taking preventive measures to reduce exposure to carcinogens and hopefully improved the outlook for all that serve.
We invite you to share your experience and insights. We think your story matters and could help someone else who thinks dirty gear is "just part of the job."
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