Local

Everett firefighter recruit diagnosed with cancer after landing job

EVERETT, Wash. — One of Everett Fire Department’s newest recruits is facing a sudden, unexpected battle.

Two weeks after Gina Anderson landed the job of her dreams, she was diagnosed with Stage 3 cancer.

Yet, she’d soon discover that her new colleagues would also be some of her biggest supporters.

“I’ve heard tons of people mention that the fire service is like a family, and I thought that I had an idea that it was, but I really got the full picture with this situation,” she told KIRO 7 News.

In a job that requires steadfast courage and unwavering camaraderie, Anderson’s newfound family members are her fellow first responders.

“I’ve felt absolute nothing short of being completely and totally supported by this department,” she said.

The “rescue bug” bit Anderson when she worked as a lifeguard during high school.

What followed was a decade of tedious training and teaching in the name of firefighting.

“She immediately came in, worked hard, showed that she’s willing to work hard, be part of the team, do the gritty job,” said Julia Sargeant, a firefighting classmate of Anderson’s.

In June, Anderson’s dedication and determination paid off.

She was offered a job at Everett Fire Department.

Her happiness would be short-lived.

Two weeks after the phone call of her dreams, came the call from her doctor that she had cancer.

“I went from feeling total elation to basically complete devastation,” she said. “It’s just been very drastic highs and lows.”

Then came the most dreaded decision of all: turning down the job she had always wanted.

Anderson did it in person, to the chief of Everett Fire himself.

“For her to come in and see the fire chief and say, ‘Chief, I can’t join you this fall, and here’s why’ — is very courageous,” said Chief Dave DeMarco.

Little did Anderson know that she’d already been welcomed into this firefighting family.

“Once you get on, you’re a member and you’re always a member,” said Local Union 46 President Paul Gagnon.

What followed was a groundswell of goodwill and support from her fellow rescuers.

“If she needs phone calls, if it’s text messages, if that is ‘hey, do you need somebody to come over to take care of your dog, take care of your lawn, or sit with you at an appointment,’ I can do those things,” said Sargeant.

Anderson now has a standing invitation to rejoin the department once she’s recovered from cancer.

As a GoFundMe page grows in her support, she said her newfound family is enough to fuel her fight.

“It really is a family and I’m barely a part of it yet and I feel so accepted.”