A local firefighter shares his story of hope as a cancer survivor

American Cancer Society

Being a firefighter is a dangerous job, battling flames and saving lives.  

“When I became a firefighter, used to be a sign of a good firefighter was dirty turnout gear. Now a days, we teach the guys that their gear needs to be clean. Those toxins have to be washed out of their gear,” said Gary Houff, cancer survivor.   

That’s because dealing with those toxins can also be dangerous and deadly. 

 “The cancer rate among firefighters is  almost twice that of a normal person. The things we deal with in our job, the soot, the toxic materials we are involved with,” said Houff. 

Gary Houff is one of those firefighters who was diagnosed with rectal cancer. 

“Wasn’t something I was expecting,” said Houff. 

Unfortunately Gary is no stranger to cancer. 

“It scared me because my best friend battled cancer for 10 years. He was a Roanoke City firefighter and my daughters watched his struggle for his ten years and what he went through. So my daughters saw that and I have to sit my daughters down and tell them that I have cancer. There were a lot of tears, but I tried to be positive with them and tell them we would work through it,” said Houff. 

Gary says he is one of the lucky ones, being able to celebrate 5 years cancer free. 

“I have side effects that I’ll have the rest of my life but i”m still here,” said Houff. 

“Since my cancer, I’ve had the opportunity to see my oldest daughter get married and walk her down the isle.  See my grandson born and I’m still waiting to the time when I can walk my youngest daughter down the isle and those are things  that I’ve been very fortunate to do,” said Houff. 

Family support is crucial when battling this deadly disease and Gary had a special family support him. 

“You live in a firehouse. You live with somebody for a third of your life, you become friends and when I was down with my chemo, They’d come to my house.  They’d help me with yard work. They’d help me with things around the house, or they would just come and sit with me,” said Houff. 

Gary is retired from the Roanoke County Fire and Rescue, but likes to go back to his old station every once in a while, to give some advice. 

“Live laugh and love because you never know what tomorrow holds,” said Houff.

If you would like to help to fid a cure ans support Gary, you can donate here: https://acssark.ejoinme.org/GaryHouff

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