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Influential Mesa fire captain fighting to protect himself, others with cancer

PHOENIX — Bryan Jeffries represents more than 6,500 firefighters across the state as the president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Arizona.

He’s worked on a fire truck for 27 years. He’s a fire captain for the Mesa Fire and Medical Department.

Jeffries led an effort to get a 2017 bill passed centered around protections for firefighters with occupational cancer, which Governor Doug Ducey later signed into law.

Nothing compares to the battle he’s currently fighting.

“I had no idea while I was working on this project that inside of me, I had my own cancer growing,” Jeffries said.

Jeffries has testicular cancer. He said he started having symptoms in September.

“I couldn’t really believe it because I was right up to my eyeballs working on these laws and efforts to try to get our people better protections,” Jeffries said.

Jeffries is part of a Senate ad hoc committee led by Republican state Rep. Paul Boyer aiming to minimize risk and exposure to cancer for first responders.

He has only been able to attend one meeting due to his cancer diagnosis.

“I can tell firsthand now what it feels like to get that call from the doctor to tell you that you have cancer,” Jeffries said. “But that said, it just fuels my motivation even further to try to keep fighting for our people because we are in an epidemic right now.”

Jeffries has had surgery and continues to have aggressive chemotherapy for the cancer he said has spread to his lymph nodes.

Testicular cancer is one of the cancers listed on Arizona legislation that is supposed to be protect firefighters’ benefits and pay for treatment with workers’ compensation when battling cancer.

Jeffries faced a delay in getting his claim approved but got word from the city on Tuesday that his treatment would be covered.

He remains in the fight to protect the rest of Arizona’s firefighters.

“I know that we can do a lot to make major changes to hopefully be pioneers to make sure the next generation of firefighters have better protections than we have,” Jeffries said.

Those better protections being early cancer screenings, as well as updated gear and newer technology that allows firefighters to combat the stronger levels of smoke many believe are filled with carcinogens.

“I get so much motivation from my fellow firefighter cancer patients because we got to get better and we got to stick around and we’ve got to train the next generation to avoid this,” Jeffries said.

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