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Shuswap firefighter committed to supporting others while battling cancer

Fundraiser launched for Silver Creek’s Rob Froud who was given about 14 months to live
Riley Boudreau (right) has launched an online fundraising campaign for his uncle Rob Froud, a firefighter with the Silver Creek Fire Department who is battling esophageal cancer. (Lachlan Labere-Salmon Arm Observer)

A cancer diagnosis hasn’t diminished Rob Froud’s passion for firefighting and giving back to community.

The Silver Creek firefighter of seven years has been undergoing palliative chemotherapy since February, when he learned he has cancer in his esophagus, stomach and lymph nodes.

Froud said last August, around when he was deployed by the Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) to support the Scotch Creek Fire Department with the Bush Creek East wildfire, he began experiencing problems swallowing food. He said the condition continued to worsen and around mid-October, his doctor arranged for him to see a specialist in 12 weeks.

“After eight weeks I went back to my doctor because I’d lost just under 100 lbs. I went from a size 44 waist to a 34, and he didn’t even recognize me,” said Froud. “So then the specialist happened straight away and then come January 26, they did a scope down my esophagus and found a large tumour at the bottom of my esophagus. They took biopsies in my stomach and in February the diagnosis came back.”

Froud, who currently has a stent in his lower esophagus that allows him to swallow, was told he has a year to 14 months to live. He is hopeful the chemotherapy will extend that.

A husband and father of three young adults in their 20s, a big part of Froud’s focus right now is spending time with family and friends – while endeavouring to stay positive.

“It helps to talk about it… I like to put a positive on it so people aren’t so bummed about it,” said Froud. “It’s a hard thing for people to go through and for my friends and my family especially. The more I stay positive, the more it helps them.”

A commercial electrician, Froud said he recently went back to work with Horizon Electric of Kelowna, which allows him to spend more time with his son who is an apprentice electrician.

“As of May 1, I’ve actually gone back to work because sitting at home by myself, because my wife works, wasn’t very good for my brain,” said Froud. “I’d rather be a positive person so I have chemo for a week and then I go to work for a week. And my company who I work for, Horizon Electric, they’ve been good, they treat me like family, they’ve offered to do whatever needs to be done for me.”

Another way Froud is keeping busy is by remaining an active member of the Silver Creek Fire Department.

“I notified the fire department and said I would like to keep coming and volunteering and mentoring the junior firefighters and the younger guys and still come into fire calls,” said Froud. “Instead of being on the nozzle, I can be the guy handing out water and I can be another pair of safety eyes on fire scenes. The CSRD was gracious enough to let me do that. Since then I’ve been volunteering, just going and helping.”

Froud’s commitment to the Silver Creek Fire Department is exemplified by a new tattoo of the department’s logo on his right forearm.

“I just got it – I was told not to do it because of the chemo,” said Froud, proceeding to show a second tattoo on his shoulder with the name Susan. “The other one I have is for my wife.”

Froud has also signed up for deployment through CSRD fire services, despite having faced some of the most frightening moments of his firefighting career last August when the wildfire rolled into Scotch Creek.

“Shelter in place – it’s something you never want to hear,” said Froud. “That’s when the fire is coming and you don’t have enough time to outrun it, so we circle… all the fire trucks, you put the sprinklers out, you turn your vehicles on, your AC, you get in it in your firefighting gear and the fire rolls over top of you. That was my first day there. Then the fire rolls over top of you and you make a run for it on the road and hope nothing is down.

“We were driving by and seeing the Squilax gas station blow up, driving through all the fire that night, that was my first day there. And that wasn’t the scariest day.”

Froud admitted his commitment to firefighting is due in part to him being an “adrenaline junkie,” but he explained how it has become about more than that.

“It’s taught me so much more… it’s taught me how to give to the community and how to give back to others,” said Froud. “I’d never stopped at accident scenes my entire life but now I stop at accident scenes.

“This weekend there was a motorbike accident we drove by and I had to stop. I told my wife I have to stop. The poor guy was sitting there with a broken ankle, waiting hours for someone to come get him from West Kelowna to take him to the hospital. So we drove him to Vernon Jubilee. Helping others, that’s what it instilled in me, the motto of the fire department of, serve something greater than yourself. And it really just stuck into me.”

To support his uncle Rob, Riley Boudreau and spouse Sarah recently launched an online fundraising campaign, seeking donations to help Froud and his family through this difficult time.

“Riley and Sarah, I can’t say enough about them; they started a GoFundMe and Sarah makes me soups…,” said Froud. “I’m a proud person. I’d never ask for help; I’ve always got it done by myself… I’ve been doing some surgeries in Kelowna where my wife has to stay too, and there are chemotherapy drugs and the costs are getting up there.

“It’s more that it gives my wife and I some more time to spend together, so we’re not both having to work the whole year and not seeing each other. I’m staying available to my family. My mom is here right now and my sister is coming in another week. They want to spend time with me. So they need the emotional support that I can give them. It’s what you’ve got to do, right.”

Asked about esophageal cancer being one of the occupational risks of firefighting, Froud said he asked his medical professionals, “what is this from, why do I have it?”

“But no one can answer that, and I can’t say it’s from firefighting…,” said Froud, who doesn’t wish his experience to deter anyone from joining their local fire departments. “There’s no proof what I have has come from firefighting… and we need our volunteers, now more than ever.”

Fire Chief Darcy Blair recently used the Silver Creek Fire Department’s Facebook page to rally support for Froud.

“Rob is a strong individual and will continue to give all he can for our department and the community of Silver Creek,” said Blair. “Please help us support him and his family as he will support us. Please feel free to reach out to me or the fire department at anytime. I want to say thanks to everyone that has him in your prayers at this difficult time.”

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Lachlan Labere

About the Author: Lachlan Labere

Editor, Salmon Arm Observer
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