Cancer survivor gives back to his community

A cancer survivor who is in remission after beating the life-threatening disease has decided to chase his dreams – by becoming a firefighter.

Tony Harvey, 56, owned his own window cleaning company until five years ago when he began to have significant problem swallowing.

A trip to the doctor’s unveiled the father-of-two had cancer and he was forced to give up the business he had spent 15 years building from the ground up.

Tony battled the disease for five years and, following many surgeries and radiotherapy, he finally got the all clear in January.

So, when he saw Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service’s (TWFRS) were recruiting on-call firefighters, he decided to follow a childhood dream.

As he continued to build a new landscaping business, Tony went through the recruitment process to provide cover at Chopwell Community Fire Station.

Not only did he make it to the on-call recruits course, but Tony shocked his fellow recruits with his fitness levels just six months on from being given the all clear.

Today (Monday) Tony is sharing his story to help encourage others to follow their dreams even when it seems like all hope has gone.

He said “It’s always been my dream to be a firefighter but I always thought my time had come and gone.

“But this time when the recruitment call went out I was fit and able to apply and I knew I wanted to give a little bit back to my community if I could.

“I’ve lived in the area for over 35 years now so I know how much the community really relies on the fire station, it’s great to be a part of something larger.”

Tony has reflected on his time on the training course at TWFRS’s Barmston Mere Training Centre in Washington stating it was “intense”.

He continued, “You couldn’t fault the instructors and trainers they were so hands on knowledgeable.

“Yes it was tough but if it wasn’t I don’t think you’d be in the right role or getting the right education.”

Station Manager for Chopwell Community Fire Station, Andy Nelson, said “It’s so heart-warming to hear about Tony’s life before he joined us as an on-call firefighters.

“He has lived through some tough experiences so knows what it’s like when adversity hits which can happen a lot in this role.

“Having life experience and a different professional background is great because you never know what this role is going to through at you and sometimes you’ve really got to think outside the box.

“It’s nice that people like Tony can give back to the community that he has been a part of for so many years by becoming an on call firefighter.”

On-call firefighters are attached to one station in the immediate vicinity of their home and work address, often fulfilling the role alongside other full-time employment.

On-call and wholetime recruitment are now closed for 2023, but wholetime recruitment will be reopening later in 2024.

Find out more about the work TWFRS does on their website.