COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Cancer has become top of mind in the fire service and for one family, a particular diagnosis hits really close to home.
We first introduced you to the Williams family last year in our Fighting 126 series, and their lives have changed a lot since then.
They are a family of firefighters.
Jesse Williams was diagnosed with prostate cancer, the same cancer his dad faced years before.
His brother, Jake, had skin cancer.
After our story aired, Jesse heard the words “all clear” just as his brother Jake was diagnosed with the same cancer he and his father had.
Now the entire family has recovered and Jesse and Jake are back to doing what they love – protecting the community.
They say it’s a calling and for the Williams family, that couldn’t be more true.
“It’s my life. I have been doing it for a long time,” said Jesse Williams. “My dad has been doing it, my grandfathers, my uncle. I couldn’t do anything else. There is no way.”
In Station 12, with the same job, Jesse and Jake Williams work side by side.
“It’s awesome. I came here just to work with my brother,” said Jake Williams.
When Jesse was battling cancer, Jake told us how afraid yet hopeful he was for his brother. “He has two young kids, and I definitely didn’t want to think about the fact that they may have to grow up without a dad.”
Their father, Bill, had survived the disease years before. “It’s just an amazing coincidence. I guess him having cancer probably saved my life,” said Jesse.
It was one amazing coincidence after another as Jake was also diagnosed with prostate cancer.
“It was a surprise. It was a shock because he was younger than I was even when he was diagnosed,” said Jesse.
Like Jesse, Jake made a full recovery. The brothers filed for workers compensation benefits and ultimately they won.
They say the battle they faced to get their benefits was different.
“We work at the exact same engine house, do the exact same job, have the same father, he went through on the first try, and I had to fight in court,” said Jesse.
It’s a fight several firefighters are facing, which Jesse said is frustrating.
However, he says it pales in comparison to the phone calls he is getting from other firefighters just learning they are sick.
“It is hard to get all of the phone calls and talk to the people. It takes me back to when I was scared. I’m fielding calls from guys who are the same way. They hear cancer and they are scared,” said Jesse.
While the future is unknown he sees a bright side. “I’m glad that there is a spotlight on it. That you are doing these stories because there are a lot of firefighters before us that may still be alive.”