We all know that firefighting is a dangerous profession. However, what may be most surprising is that cancer — not fire — is the most dangerous threat to firefighter health and safety.
Kyle*, 38, knows this all too well. In 2016, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Kyle credits his oncologist, Dr. Andrew Hampshire, and the entire oncology team at Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group, with helping him reach a significant milestone in April — 5 years cancer-free.
“I didn’t have an easy time of it. I had lots of complications. But Dr. Hampshire is the most compassionate, understanding person — the epitome of what a doctor should be,” Kyle says. “I felt like I was part of the oncology team’s family. I always felt I was in good hands.”
As a cancer survivor, Kyle was compelled to help his colleagues at the fire department where he has worked for 17 years. Two and a half years ago, he became the department’s first cancer and health coordinator. From first-day recruits all the way up the chain of command, Kyle educates his colleagues on the risks of the job, such as chemical exposure to toxins, including those in the diesel fuel that powers firetruck engines. He also focuses on prevention measures, such as showering as soon after an exposure as possible.
One would think that after overcoming cancer, it would be the last thing a person would want to discuss. Kyle admits that, at times, it can be hard to talk about cancer, but he does it because he knows sharing his experience may help save another firefighter.
“In firefighting, there is something called the four F’s: faith, family, friends and the fire department. These folks are my extended family,” he says. “Any opportunity I have where I can make an impact is rewarding. Firefighters can be a tough crowd, so it helps to get the message across when I share my own experience fighting cancer.”
In April, Dr. Hampshire told Kyle he didn’t need to see him any more — he was officially released. Kyle was relieved to be on the other end of his cancer journey but a bit wistful too.
“I will miss talking to Dr. Hampshire,” he says. “I just can’t say enough about him and the entire team.”
*Sharp HealthCare respects the privacy of its patients and their families. While Kyle gave his permission to share his story, he wishes to remain anonymous.