Ryan Kelley diagnosed at 35

I am a firefighter in Worcester, MA. I came to Worcester from Wellesley, where I worked as a firefighter for 7 years, because I wanted to work in an urban environment with a higher call volume. While in the Worcester Fire Academy, I noticed a scab on my temple that wouldn’t heal. Often, after getting out of the shower, it would bleed. I tried a lot of things from bandages to Vaseline to hydrogen peroxide. Nothing would work. The scab became a nuisance, but I still didn’t think much of it.

It was about 2 ½ years that I had the wound that wouldn’t heal, but the training you did caused a bell to go off.

Then last March, DetecTogether came to the fire department to teach 3 Steps Detect and you guys were talking about all the different kinds of little things that could be symptoms of cancer, and the 2-week rule, and after that I knew I should get checked out.

I probably waited a ridiculous amount of time; it was about 2 ½ years that I had the wound that wouldn’t heal, but the training you did caused a bell to go off. Next thing I saw that you all were coordinating a free skin cancer screening for Worcester Fire, and I thought ‘perfect, I’m going to this.’

I applaud Worcester and the chiefs for being proactive and progressive about occupational cancer. They let us go over to the skin screening while we were on duty. I went into the room and mentioned how long I’d had the scab and how it kept flaking off and bleeding. They set up a biopsy for me for the next day.

I had surgery to remove the carcinoma. It was a 15 mm x 9 mm tumor on my temple. I’m really grateful I can put this behind me now and was able to prevent it from turning into something horrible.

When I first started out, we only had one set of turnout gear and we had no way to wash it, so I went for 7 years wearing dirty gear. I know now how bad that was and I’m grateful that in Worcester we have two sets of turnout gear and big commercial washers in each station so when we get back from a call, we can throw our gear in to wash and put the second set on. I used to think that wasn’t necessary, but I know better now and hope others do, too.

Now I’m doing great and I can’t thank you guys enough for what you’re doing for all of us.

Symptom

  • a scab that would flake off and bleed and wouldn’t heal