COLUMBUS (WCMH) — They risk their lives to keep us safe and firefighters are facing a huge threat to their health just by doing it.
Roughly 126 Firefighters in Columbus have been diagnosed with cancer.
For the Williams family this hits closed to home. A father and his son were diagnosed with the same cancer while his other son battled with his own cancer.
The Williams are this weeks Fighting 126.
“I grew up with it. My grandfather, three uncles, my dad, cousin. Now me, my brother, and our cousins children are starting to get into firefighting now,” said Jesse Williams. For him, firefighting is a family tradition. He and his brother Jake took their qualifying tests together. “We both did well. I may have done a little better on that test.. but he did better on the test before, so it all worked out,” said Jake.
Station 12 in Columbus became a second home to the Williams men. “It’s awesome. I came here just to work with my brother,” said Jake. It was a dream come true to work together, until the nightmare began when Bill Williams, father of Jesse and Jake, was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer.
The Williams didn’t realize how common cancer was. “Nobody talked about it. A lot of firefighters died of cancer while they were working, after they were working,” said Jesse.
When Bill Williams recovered, the family took a sigh of relief until Jesse was diagnosed with the same cancer. “I was diagnosed three months and 3 days after turning 40 years old,” Jesse said. The news was devastating. “It was like being hit in the chest with a sledgehammer,” recalls Jake.
Jesse was worried his two young kids would grow up without him. “I was watching my daughters Christmas play when I was in that time, waiting to hear if it was anywhere else. I just remember sitting there thinking, this could be the last time I see this. It’s horrible… it still makes me.. I mean want to cry to this day just thinking about it.”
Jake, who dealt with his own skin cancer years before, was even more upset about his brother. “He has two young kids.. and I definitely didn’t want to think about the fact that they may have to grow up without a dad.”
Jesse has been in remission for a year but he still worries about the future. “If I do make it through my 30 years on the fire department and come out of this unscathed, well what’s next? What’s hiding?” The brothers say it is terrifying to think something like this could happen again but they will continue to work and save lives. “Unfortunately it’s a risk that many of us have. it’s a job that I love. It definitely was the calling that I didn’t realize that I had. I wouldn’t stop doing it,” said Jesse.
It’s why the Williams are The Fighting 126.