Firefighters cycle to B.C. Children’s hospital to support colleague’s daughter in cancer fight

Victoria firefighters who have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for cancer research cycled to B.C. Children’s Hospital from the Bay Street fire hall in Victoria on Wednesday to support one of their own.

Victoria firefighter and fellow Ride To Conquer Cancer team member Todd Thompson is at the hospital in Vancouver, where his daughter Chloe, 14, a Langford student and premier soccer player, is being treated for B cell non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

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Chloe, whose team is Vancouver Island Wave, was flown to B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver on Jan. 29 to treat a large abdominal tumour. Doctors determined, after a six-hour surgery, that the tumour could not be removed without compromising vital organs, said Tammy Neske who began a fundraising page. Chemotherapy is now the preferred treatment route.

Making the news all the harder for Victoria firefighters on the Ride to Conquer Cancer team is the fact that Chloe rode with the annual fundraiser last year.

“It hits pretty close to home,” said Assistant Chief Rich Fryer. “We all know her. She did a ride along with us last year. I’ve known her her whole life.”

The team has raised more than $315,000 for the B.C. Cancer Foundation. “[Todd Thompson] has been a member of our riding team for three years and we thought it would be a good thing to go over and show him support just as he’s shown support to so many people,” said Fryer.

“We are a pretty tight family. We all know each other’s kids. It’s like one of our own kids.”

It was an emotional departure from No. 3 Fire Station at 740 Bay St. Wednesday morning. The firefighters talked about their special connection with one another, and the disease that disproportionately affects their profession.

“It’s heart-wrenching,” said Fire Chief Paul Bruce. “Cancer has affected the department in a number of ways the last few years, so with each new notification of a diagnosis of cancer, it starts the whole process all over again, and I’m not sure if you ever really get through it.”

Bruce, who knows Chloe, said she has written on the wall of her hospital bed room in big letters: “No crying in my room.”

“She is a very courageous young woman,” said Bruce. “She knows she has a big fight ahead of her and that’s all we’re trying to do is support her as best we can with that fight.”

Speaking to the firefighters, Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said the department is like a family. “As Paul Bruce was saying, when one kid gets sick, it’s like everyone’s kid,” she said. “To have a whole crew of guys show up at B.C. Children’s Hospital will really be moving.”

The Victoria Fire Department will present a donation to the Thompson family during their visit to B.C. Children’s Hospital.

Many of the same riders will be participating in the B.C. Cancer Foundation Ride to Conquer Cancer Aug. 29-30 to raise money to help improve the lives of others facing cancer in B.C. A GoFundMe page has already raised more than $45,000 for Chloe’s family.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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