Firefighters didn’t worry about getting cancer when Tim Downes joined the Syracuse Fire Department in 1985.
He’d wear a helmet and other gear caked in soot, carbon and other toxic residue from fires and think nothing of it. “You were supposed to be salty,” he says.
But in 2008 Downes was diagnosed with stage 4 lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system, part of the body’s germ fighting network. He suspects all the toxic chemicals he was exposed to in the line of duty may have caused his cancer. Downes went through 2 ½ years of treatment and is cancer-free today.
That’s why the retired firefighter helped organize a cancer screening program for city firefighters on Saturday, May 1. It will include a battery of nine different tests at Hematology-Oncology Associates of CNY at 5008 Brittonfield Parkway, East Syracuse. The tests will screen for lung, colorectal, prostate, kidney, bladder and thyroid cancers.