MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) -- Mobile's Fire Chief, Mark Sealy, reveals that he was diagnosed with cancer several months ago. The diagnosis of kidney cancer came last summer when he was attending a fire chief's conference in Texas. A company called Lifescan Wellness Centers was conducting full body ultrasounds on first responders at the meeting. He reluctantly signed up to have one, and it showed a mass on his kidney. He came back to Mobile and was diagnosed with early-stage kidney cancer.
"It's a shock. Cancer is prevalent, but it is always someone else. It is really is a shock, " Sealy said.
Doctors removed his cancer during a surgery, and since it was caught early, he did not have to have any chemo or radiation. Chief Sealy considers himself lucky. He has started researching the prevalence of cancer in firefighters, and it's higher than in the general population. It all has to do with the carcinogens in the air when items in homes and buildings catch fire.
"Things are made with synthetics...cushions, carpets. They are made with chemicals that are released by combustion. Those are subject to get those on us," Sealy said."
Sealy says having dirty gear was a badge of honor when he was riding a fire truck daily. The fire helmets in his office show years of built-up soot. He admits that dirty gear meant that a firefighter was seasoned, and not just sitting on the sidelines, but now he wants to change the culture.
"Now the culture is the clean gear is a badge of honor. We have to change that. You are smarter and you know what can help you and your family."
Chief Sealy has instituted a new policy for firefighters that requires them to clean all their gear before they even leave the scene of a fire. They have to hose off, brush off, and wipe off soot. Then, each firefighter has to take a shower before heading home.
Here is a document describing some cancer prevention techniques. https://www.firerescue1.com/fire-products/Personal-protective-equipment-ppe/articles/250291018-Cancer-prevention-protection-for-fire-service-personnel/
Chief Sealy feels blessed that his cancer was caught early, and he is cancer free. He hopes other firefighters will learn from his years of failing to clean his gear, and put their health as their top priority.
"I have met with every firefighter in this department. If it happened to me, it could happen to them. Hopefully, they will listen to the message. I am very passionate about the health and wellness of our firefighters," Sealy said.
Sealy is working on something that is very exciting for Mobile Fire Rescue. He is hoping to secure funding for each firefighter to have his or her own ultrasound. This is common in some departments around the country. You can read more about these ultrasounds and medical tests that first responders receive. They are conducted by http://lifescanwellness.com.