Firefighter battling breast cancer inspires others

By Ashley Mitchem - Reporter, anchor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - It's estimated that among U.S. women, there will be more than 200,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer this year -- 40,000 of whom will not survive.

But many breast cancer patients do not let the diagnosis bring their life to a halt.

Thirty-eight-year-old Sheryl Rodgers fights fires for a living. Now she's fighting breast cancer.

"It hasn't really affected my work all that much," Rodgers said. "I've tried to come in and stay working as much as I can because I love my job and I think that helps, too."

Right before her honeymoon, Rodgers discovered a lump in her breast. After vacation, she went to the doctor, only to find out it was cancer.

That hasn't kept her from her duties at the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department. She has switched some days around with other firefighters, but besides that, she hasn't missed much work.

Her co-workers have rallied around her during her battle.

"It was almost devastating for a little while, and then I grew from her strength, really," said Lt. Sam Mays, who's been with JFRD for 28 years. "She came in and just worked right through it. She inspired all of us."

Although, she does have some rough days.

"Especially the week of treatment, I would just lay on the couch all week long, barely had energy to get up and go to the bathroom or get to bed," Rodgers said.

Her husband said he thinks it has been harder for him than her, emotionally at least.

"I can tell you this has been the most difficult thing that I've ever done or had to deal with in my life, was to watch her chemotherapy treatments," he said.

The couple has only been married about a year and were caught off guard with her diagnosis because she's still in her 30s. Now they are urging young women to get checked frequently.

"Demand you want a mammogram, because whatever their guideline is, it's not engraved in stone," Rodgers said. "It can happen at any age, and it does."

Now that she's finished with her second round of chemotherapy, the next step is surgery.

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