After nearly a decade, cancer survivor reaches his dream of becoming a firefighter

Recruits half-way mark to Clearwater Fire & Rescue

TAMPA, Fla. — One man's journey to become a firefighter has taken him almost a decade to accomplish. But it's his near-death experience that will bring him closer to the ones he'll soon save.

It’s no easy job. Heavy equipment, blistering conditions and dealing with life and death scenarios.

“So they said I was about to die," said James Humphrey, a firefighter recruit for Clearwater Fire & Rescue.

Facing death is something he knows too well. Eight years ago he was a rookie working in a New Mexico. One day he called out sick, he thought it was the flu.

“24 hours later I found I had hairy cell leukemia," he said.

A seemingly healthy man now in the fight of his life.

“You feel drained at all times, high, high fevers," said Humphrey.

You can understand why cancer stole more than his strength — taking his dream of becoming a firefighter. Until now.

Humphrey and 11 other recruits are only five weeks away from calling Clearwater Fire & Rescue their new home. Even training there is an accomplishment considering nearly 20 others applied.

Up in the stands, family members cheer them on.

“I’m so proud of him," said Humphrey's mother Pamela O'Neal. "It’s just words can’t even describe how proud I am of him.”

She understands the grit it takes. As patient turns hero.

“Total dedication. Strength, a lot of strength," she said.

This firefighter to-be is reclaiming his future.

“It’s everything. It’s a dream come true," said Humphrey.

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