COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Startling numbers show that firefighters put themselves at risk after the fire is extinguished. One in ten Columbus firefighters have been diagnosed with cancer. The danger that put them in harm’s way were toxins from the chemicals and smoke that seeped through their protective suits.
Rodney Lee used to run into burning buildings until the battle of his life put him behind a desk. He loved his job as a firefighter. “I felt like it was where I needed to be. I felt like I could make a difference in my community.” He worked for five years with the Air Force and 15 years with the Columbus Fire Department. “The way I felt when I was on the truck, when I was doing what I was trained to do, I felt good about it.”
After decades of being exposed to chemicals and burning plastic and smoke, doctors diagnosed Lee with bone cancer. “It wasn’t going I was going to fight it with every fiber of my life.”
His biggest fear is not being around for his daughter. “Knowing that I wouldn’t be there to see her get married.. or see her have her children.. or not see any grandchildren. Those were things I couldn’t control and those were the hardest things to overcome in my mind. We talk about …..what life would be like without me. We make those plans.”
Lee’s cancer will never go away but he manages with a healthy diet and as much exercises as his body will allow.
Even though his career lead to his disease, he still wishes he could be on the scenes of fires helping people. “I feel like I should be there. I should be there watching their back like we did.”
Instead of running in behind his brothers on the fire department, he walks beside them every morning, sometimes miles each day. It’s a lot like his battle with cancer, one step at a time.
If you’d like to donate to the non profit agency dedicated to helping firefighters with cancer, click here.