LAKELAND, Fla. - A Central Florida firefighter who has been battling cancer will return to his job on Friday after 16 long months.
"I wasn't sure this day would ever get here, but I couldn't be more excited for my return," said firefighter/paramedic Clay Geiger. "It was a long journey, and I wouldn't be where I am today if it wasn't for the continued support of my family and work-family."
Geiger, 30, was diagnosed last year with Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, forcing him to step down temporarily from his position at the Lakeland Fire Department so he could begin treatment.
Over the past months, he has underwent several bouts of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. To make matters worse, amidst treatments, he tested positive for COVID last Christmas.
"I thought that was it; I had no immunity. Cancer and treatments significantly weaken your immune system," said Geiger.
Lakeland Fire Dept.
But he wasn't going down without a fight. Clay powered through and overcame the virus. Now after months of treatments, he will return to the work he loves – serving the community.
The department says it will be several years of PET scans and follow-up appointments before Clay can claim complete remission, but he wants to use his experience to advocate for cancer patients and firefighters alike.
"We are very excited to have Clay return to work following a very courageous battle with cancer. He has kept a positive attitude and demonstrated tremendous courage and determination throughout his treatment," said Fire Chief Doug Riley. "His return is a monumental win for the department and the citizens we have the privilege of serving every day."
Cancer is reportedly the leading cause of death among firefighters, and research shows firefighters are at higher risk when compared to the general population, the department said.
In response, Florida legislature recently passed Senate Bill 426, granting rights and benefits to firefighters diagnosed with certain cancers, including Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
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