Fire department organizing donor drive to help Chagrin Falls fire marshal battling leukemia

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CHAGRIN FALLS, Ohio (WJW) – Chagrin Falls Fire Marshal Jim Finley is known for helping others, but life took an unexpected turn after he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia earlier this year.

“It was April 12 this past spring. It was kind of numbing because they said, ‘you have to go to a cancer center.’ I didn’t know that much about leukemia or cancer,” said Finley.

Finley started treatment but unfortunately, he got the news that the cancer came back.

“I was like, ‘this is a mistake and they will figure it out.’ I’ve never really been sick before,” said Finley.

Still, he’s a fighter. Finley survived a suicide attack in Iraq during his tour with the 325th out of Brook Park back in 2005. He was awarded the Purple Heart.

“After chemo, my blood counts recovered. I felt great. Then I got some test results that showed a marker had returned. My doctor said that shouldn’t happen. We need to discuss a bone marrow transplant,” said Finley.

In this next phase of his fight with Leukemia, Finley will need a bone marrow donor.

“I don’t know how to fix this and that’s frustrating. Especially as a firefighter, you fix things,” said Finley.

Enter the Chagrin Valley Fire Department.

“To watch him go through something like this, it makes you feel helpless,” said John Catani, assistant fire chief.

The department decided to organize a donor drive on Sunday, January 2, 2022 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the firehouse.

“It’s through Be The Match, a national database. One out of every 220 people will match.  It’s a simple cheek swab. People can come down to the station and have their cheek swabbed and it’s free,” said Catani.

With Leukemia, doctors first attempt to find a bone marrow match within the immediate family.

Unfortunately, the success rate for a match within the family is 30%.

“It would be great if someone in Chagrin was a match. I know the odds are long, but it’s just about making that database bigger. And if it doesn’t help me, it will somebody else. Hopefully my donor is out there somewhere,” said Finley.

The Chagrin Valley Fire Department said you must be between the ages of 18-40 years old to donate.

Learn more about the donor drive here.

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