Fighting for his life, September 11 first-responder shares an important message
By Dr. Gracelyn Santos | firstname.lastname@example.org | Posted March 21, 2019 at 07:00 AM
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- FDNY Firefighter Steven "Bubba" Pascale, of Westerleigh, is fighting for his life against stage 3 kidney cancer.
But he has an important message he would like to share with all the first-responders and volunteers who were at Ground Zero on or soon after Sept. 11, 2001: Get yourself checked for cancer or other illnesses that could be a direct result of working in the area of the World Trade Center after the terrorist attacks.
"My mission is simply to warn others of the possibility of having health issues hidden inside, even though you're feeling otherwise fine and non-symptomatic like I was," said Pascale. "I consider myself extremely lucky that my cancer was found and I want to do my part to help someone else who may not be aware, like I was.
Pascale recalled that on Ash Wednesday of this year, he had just received his ashes and was thinking about what his Lenten sacrifice should be.
"Nothing I thought about 'giving up' felt quite right," he explained. "But then as I was kneeling there in church I thought about not 'giving up' something, but rather 'giving out and sharing' some thoughts that I've had lately."
Pascale said he wants to share his cancer story as a cautionary tale.
In the photo above, Pascale of Engine 253, in his Brooklyn firehouse.
"A few months ago, in October 2018, I had a precautionary CT Scan done of my lungs. It came back that my lungs were all clear," Pascale recalled. "But also seen in the scan was that my right kidney had a tumor. Basically, the whole kidney was one big tumor."
Pascale said he believes his guardian angels were watching over him that day. He had no symptoms of illness of any kind, but said he is grateful the tumor was found.
"A week later I was at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan, meeting with their kidney surgeon specialist," he said. "The following week, my right kidney was gone. Stage 3 cancer."
The firefighter is currently undergoing a six-month immunotherapy treatment program at Sloan Kettering, and "so far, so good. That's the encapsulated story. Surreal to say the least," he said.
His message to fellow Staten Islanders and beyond is: "If there's anyone out there who was around the WTC site, please consider being proactive and going for one of those full body scans. I wasn't. I didn't, and over the years I had read and heard about first responders who suffered health issues years after 9/11. But having no big overriding health concerns or issues, I personally never did it.
"I underwent annual medicals, blood tests, heart, lungs and checkups, but nothing over all the years was ever discovered. It took a CT scan where, thankfully, the tech who administered it happened to include a view of my kidneys. If they hadn't, well my story today could be much different. The doctor at Sloan said that the tumor had probably been growing little by little for years."
Pascale said he is grateful for the love and support he has received from family and friends, which he described as "amazing."
The self-proclaimed music geek said he has assembled an inspirational "F Cancer" playlist -- where the music and lyrics, the rhythms and melodies have carried him "through the dark, scary times like when I'm hooked up to an IV in the Sloan treatment room."
"I plan on sending that playlist out into the social media world too, as soon as I get around to typing out around 400 songs and the artists who created them. I'm slightly music obsessed," he said.
Pascale is pleading for Staten Islanders to share his message.
"To all of you out there who are actually reading this, please, if you don't mind, can you forward this out to all your people, especially those who were intimately involved with Sept. 11 and Ground Zero?" he said in a social media post.
"It doesn't have to be just first-responders, it's anybody who lived or worked nearby, it's construction workers, it's anybody," he said. "So many of us have gotten hit hard by 9/11's shadow who may be sharing this; maybe by sharing this, it will help someone else and something good comes out of something not so good. It could save a life."
In the photo left, Pascale during his treatment at Sloan Kettering Memorial Cancer Center.