Cycle of Giving: Firefighter fighting cancer giving back for kind efforts

By Michelle Lorenzo

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CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (KRIS) – Firefighters are heroes who serve the community whenever they get a call.

“You give everything you have, and at the end of the day it’s a really rewarding job,” said Mark Solis, a firefighter and engineer with the Corpus Christi Fire Department.

However, it is also a dangerous job. If they walk through fire, they’re still burned from the aftermath of their reaction. Multiple studies state that cancer is the most dangerous and most overlooked threat to the health and safety of our nation’s firefighters.

Firefighters have a nine percent higher risk of developing cancer than the general population and a 14 percent higher risk of dying from occupational cancer than the general population.

A 2015 federal study found that firefighters were twice as likely to develop testicular cancer and malignant mesothelioma. They have higher rates of many other malignancies, as well as cancers of the lungs, colon, and urinary tract.

The American Cancer Society said part of the cause was a firefighter’s exposure to chemicals and smoke. Corpus Christi firefighters say buildings today are filled with furniture and other items made of plastic and can create a toxic cloud when they burn.

“Any fire that we’re on is more of a HAZMAT scene than a fire just because of all the chemicals there,” Solis said. “We think about our own safety on the ground, about going home and being safe, but we don’t think about the things that come up five, six, seven or ten years later.”

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Solis was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer after 22 years of working with the CCFD. He received the news last August

“That was the hardest part, telling my kids I have cancer. But at that point we decided we had to fight and from that part on I called my surgeon and said let’s get started.

He gets chemotherapy every other week. Despite the circumstances, Solis is looking on the bright side thanks to the support of his family, fellow firefighters and even people he’s never met before, like Pete Trevino.

Trevino is no stranger to helping those at Coastal Bend. His efforts continue with plans to organize a barbecue benefit for Solis.

“He said, ‘I want to do this, this is what I do. I love to give back, you’ve given to this community for 22 years and I want to give back to you. And I was floored,” explained Solis.

Solis is now hoping to pay it up front. He said a portion of the proceeds from the fundraiser will go to the fire department’s Cancer Awareness Relief Effort (CARE).

It’s important to him, not only because he has cancer, but also because some of his peers have also had to battle it. In the past 10 years, Solis says, 15 people have been diagnosed in the department and one person died of work-related cancer a few years ago.

If you would like to support the firefighter and raise awareness of occupational cancer, you can go to the Barbeque Benefit at the Corpus Christi Professional Firefighter’s Association building at 6014 Ayers Street. The benefit is scheduled for February 18 at 11 a.m. and will continue until the food runs out.

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Those who would like to help in other ways, donate food and supplies, or would like more information can call Pete Trevino at (361) 815-5199.

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