'It's an absolute honor to take him on this ride. But it certainly is heart-wrenching.'
A terminally ill firefighter was given a touching and emotional farewell by his colleagues and friends. His colleagues at the Itasca Fire Protection District of Illinois made sure that he received a hero's salute as he was transported from the hospital to his home where he can spend his final days among family and friends. Itasca Fire Chief Jack Schneidwind said, "There's nothing sadder than obviously losing somebody, especially somebody young, so vibrant as Frank." Jack informed the hospital that the department would like to transport Nunez in one of the ambulances he used to drive while working. He added, "So to have us have the honor of bringing him home in this — and that's what is for us and the people volunteering — it's an absolute honor to take him on this ride. But it certainly is heart-wrenching," reports PEOPLE.
Frank Nunez was diagnosed with synovial sarcoma, a rare kind of soft tissue cancer, in 2019 after experiencing pain in his left leg. However, after going through surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatment, he entered a temporary remission. Unfortunately, his cancer returned in 2021, and this time his left lung was affected. He was admitted to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago after he fell severely ill but there was nothing that the doctors could do. While he was in the hospital, firefighters from his department cared for him and took turns to stay by his side in the hospital, reports The Daily Herald.
Dr. Khalilah Gates said the fire department's support for Nunez throughout his struggle was incredible. "To every day see his fellow firefighters at the room, and we've just come out of this pandemic where we were all on the frontlines, we were all responding. And to know that they have put their lives on the line for people — Frank is one of those people," he said.
Support Our Brother Frank Nunez of Itasca Firefighters Local 3461 in his battle against cancer.https://t.co/5yJKLhq2ti— Associated FF of Illinois (@AFFI1935) September 27, 2022
He added, "And now they're here, looking for us to provide the care for him, I think means a lot. And I also think, and I was just telling the chief, the fact that they were always here 24/7, making sure that Frank was never alone, speaks volumes to who Frank is as a person." Nunez was committed to his work in the fire department even after his diagnosis in 2021. He went through several clinical trials while still working for the department. In fact, he finished the fire inspector training class before he was admitted to the hospital this month. Jack said, "He came in with a great attitude wanting to make a difference to the people that we served. And when you talk about somebody who looked forward to living each day, that was Frank."
On September 21, Nunez and his fiancee, Christina, celebrated his 34th birthday at the hospital and had a commitment ceremony in his room. They met only weeks before Nunez was diagnosed with his first diagnosis of cancer and got engaged this year in June. Nunez's mother is also admitted to the same hospital and is battling cancer with a stem cell transplant. As he is intubated, his mother Luz Nunez said goodbye to her son through a dry-erase board.
A GoFundMe campaign for Nunez's family created to relieve them of some financial burdens describes Nunez as "a warrior that always has a positive attitude and thinks about everyone besides himself." The description explains the gravity of the situation and says, "Unfortunately the outcome is not looking good and his family and fiancé will have to contend with any remaining costs and end-of-life expenses." It goes on to say that Nunez "is a true firefighter brother and a warrior through and through!"