Itasca, IL

A firefighter with Terminal Cancer Takes Final Ride in Ambulance He Used to Transport Patients

Shameel Shams

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Frank Nunez, 34, of Crystal Lake is an Itasca Fire Protection District firefighter(Image Source: Dailyherald)

Frank Nunez, whose diagnosis came after doctors discovered tumors in his left lung, held a commitment ceremony with his fiancée before fellow firefighters escorted him home.

Firefighters in Illinois said an emotional farewell as their colleague with terminal cancer left the hospital for the final time.

Itasca Fire Protection District personnel helped in transferring Frank Nunez from Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago to his home on Tuesday, where his loved ones will focus on making him comfortable in his final days.

Nunez, 34, was diagnosed with synovial sarcoma, a rare form of soft tissue cancer, in 2019 after experiencing pain in his left leg, according to Northwestern Memorial. However, after undergoing surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation treatment, he experienced a brief remission.

Cancer then returned in 2021, this time in Nunez's left lung, according to doctors. Nunez took part in several clinical trials after being diagnosed, and he continued to work for the fire department while undergoing treatment. Before being admitted to Northwestern Memorial in September, he had even completed a fire inspector training course.

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FireFighter / Paramedic Frank HunezFacebook

On September 21, Nunez and his fiancée, Christina, celebrated his 34th birthday at the hospital and held a commitment ceremony in his room. They met just weeks before Nunez was diagnosed with his first bout of cancer, and they married in June.

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Nunez and his fiancée ChristinaCredit: Northwestern

Nunez isn't the only cancer patient in his family. On his birthday, his mother received a stem cell transplant for leukemia at Northwestern Memorial, and the two said goodbye to each other using a dry-erase board.

"There's nothing sadder than obviously losing somebody, especially somebody young, so vibrant as Frank," Itasca Fire Chief Jack Schneidwind told the hospital that he took Nunez home in one of the ambulances he used as a firefighter.

"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," he added. "But it certainly is heart-wrenching."

Dr. Khalilah Gates said that the fire department's support for Nunez throughout his battle was inspiring.

"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," Gates told the hospital. "And to know that they have put their lives on the line for people — Frank is one of those people."

"And now they're here, looking for us to provide the care for him, I think means a lot," Gates added. "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."

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