POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – After sixteen months, one Lakeland firefighter/paramedic is ready to make his long-awaited return to the community after battling cancer.
According to Lakeland Fire Department, Clay Geiger was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma last year and went through several bouts of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. He’s now set to make his return with LFD on Friday.
“I wasn’t sure this day would ever get here, but I couldn’t be more excited for my return,” said Geiger. “It was a long journey, and I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for the continued support of my family and work-family.”
The fire department says cancer is a leading cause of death among firefighters, “and research shows firefighters are at higher risk when compared to the general population.”
In 2019, the Florida legislature passed Senate Bill 426 which grants benefits to firefighters diagnosed with certain cancers, including Non-Hodgkin’s.
Geiger was only 30 years old at the time of his diagnosis, learning he had a rare form of the cancer called Natural killer/T-cell lymphoma (NKTL). He went on to receive treatment from Moffitt Cancer Center over the span of six months.
During his battle, Geiger learned he tested positive for COVID-19 last Christmas.
“I thought that was it; I had no immunity. Cancer and treatments significantly weaken your immune system,” he said.
It won’t be for several years of PET scans and follow-up appointments before he can claim complete remission, the fire department said. However, now, Geiger wants to use his experience to advocate for cancer patients and firefighters alike.
“We are very excited to have Clay return to work following a very courageous battle with cancer. He has kept a positive attitude and demonstrated tremendous courage and determination throughout his treatment,” said Fire Chief Doug Riley. “His return is a monumental win for the department and the citizens we have the privilege of serving every day.”