T he great outdoors have always spoken to Jeff Greene. Growing up in Lake Stevens, Washington and moving to Wenatchee later in his childhood, he found his calling in the open air and fire fighting seemed the perfect fit for a career. He is an avid fisherman and hunter, has worked in departments throughout the Pacific Northwest and spent eight years on the haz mat team in an industrial area of Kent. In December of 2014, at the prime age of 32, Greene was diagnosed with chromophobe renal cell carcinoma. A rare sub-type of the greater renal cell carcinoma umbrella, Greene’s type of cancer holds up just 5 percent of all kidney cancers and only seen in 60 cases a year on average. After waking up with a side pain he soothed with a heating pad six months prior, the second occurrence of the pain was too much to bear and Greene’s wife insisted he visit his primary care doctor. Several screenings and tests later, his doctor determined there was a spot on his kidney that was renal cell carcinoma, but it was weeks out until he was able to see a specialist. “When I got the news, I was sitting at work and called Seattle Cancer Care, told them my story and asked if I could come in,” Greene says, noting he was in their hospital just three days later. “I met IMMEDIATE ACTION: Jeff Greene’s Road to Recovery with a surgeon there, he looked at my file and said that it really didn’t matter at this point what it was. That at my age, it’s going to grow to a point that it’s going to be in the way, whether that’s just a tumor or cancer. We had to cut it out.” This type of cancer forms in the cells lining the small tubules that help filter waste from the blood and produce urine in the kidney—and the only treatment is surgery. Thankfully for Greene, the procedure was simple; the affected portion was cut out and he quickly returned to the world he loved. Unlike many other fire fighters who battle cancer, Greene, who is an Engineer/ driver for the Kent Fire Department, always had his best practices dialed in. He says he can only recall a singular, yet distinctive, time when his safety might have been in jeopardy. “When I was on probation my very first year, we went to a pipeline fire and we were breathing the fumes with raw fuel spraying everywhere,” he says. “One of the possible causes of kidney cancers is benzenes (a natural part of crude oil and gasoline)... We were only 100-200 feet away from the active fuel, we were breathing fumes the entire time. It wasn’t until hours later when they realized the potential of it and moved everybody back.” With a heightened sense of consciousness, Greene encourages his fellow fire fighters to be aware of everything they do on the job. “Don’t bring that home to your kids, you don’t want carcinogens at home,” he says. “If you can smell it, you know carcinogens are all over everything.” Today, Greene is behind the fire service’s movement toward cancer awareness. He says he understands it might take time for change to be reinforced, but for now, he shares his story to help better practices sink in on a personal level. “As long as we are getting this data and information out there, maybe there will be more looked into as far as finding a definitive cause,” Greene says. “If it’s something that we are doing—at the station or on calls—that’s causing it, it’d be nice to know so that somebody else doesn’t have to go through with this.” BY ERIN JAMES 1 7