Author(s): Jesse Roman. Published on May 1, 2018.

Cancer Free

A stricken Boston firefighter featured in NFPA Journal gets some good news


Last May, NFPA Journal detailed the health struggles of Glenn Preston, a Boston firefighter, in “Facing Cancer,” our story on what the fire service is doing to combat high rates of firefighter cancer.

A year later, we are thrilled to report that the 41-year-old father of four is cancer free.

"All I want to do is live, beat this, be able to walk my daughters down the aisle. Not be in a box," Preston told a Boston television station in April, shortly after receiving the good news. “I want to get back to work, be a fireman again.”

Preston’s bout began in the summer of 2016 when doctors found a grapefruit-sized lump in his chest. At first, he hid the news from his family, but soon the pain became so unbearable that he collapsed on the job. When a biopsy revealed that he had advanced-stage non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, it hardly came as a shock.

“Since 2000 I’ve been in a really busy company, going to fires and coming out of buildings covered in black, looking like crap,” Preston told NFPA Journal last year. “I thought I’d get cancer—that’s the job. I just didn’t think it would be now.”

Doctors are quick to say that Preston is not out of the woods yet. He will have to be closely monitored to ensure his cancer doesn’t return. But for now Preston is cancer free and back home with his wife and four young children. No word yet on if and when he might return to work.

Preston’s story is likely a familiar one in firehouses across the country. Numerous studies have showed that firefighters contract cancer at rates far higher than the general population. In Boston, the problem has reached crisis levels. Internal department numbers have revealed that a new Boston firefighter is diagnosed with cancer every three weeks. Most, if not all, are believed to have contracted the illness as a result of repeated exposure to harmful carcinogens on the job. The situation prompted the Boston Fire Department to make significant changes and investments to better protect firefighters from harmful toxins in stations and at fires.

Read our May/June 2017 feature story on firefighter cancer online.

JESSE ROMAN is associate editor for NFPA Journal. Top Photograph: Jesse Burke