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February 26, 2014

Walk remembers local firefighter, raises awareness of melanoma

By Terry Oparka
C & G Staff Writer

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Walk remembers local firefighter, raises awareness of melanoma
The Duncan family, from left, Troy volunteer firefighter Jonathon, Jennifer Wiseman, Charlene and T.J. stand next to the equipment that their husband and father, Troy volunteer firefighter Tom Duncan, used during his more-than 30 years as a volunteer at Station 2 Feb. 20.

Long-time Troy firefighter Tom Duncan’s daughter, Jennifer Wiseman, says her father, who died of melanoma last March at age 61, had a smile on his face every day.

“He lived life to its absolute fullest, and I don’t really think (he) had an enemy in life,” she said.

Charlene Duncan, Tom’s wife, explained that melanoma, a form of skin cancer, first struck her fair-skinned husband in the form of a suspicious mole on his back in 2009. He successfully had the cancerous mole and some lymph nodes removed and was cancer-free.

According to www.aimatmela noma.org, skin type is the primary risk factor for developing melanoma, and fair-skinned people are at much greater risk than those with darker skins. Other risk factors are exposure to ultraviolet radiation, moles and family history.

Duncan was selected as Troy Firefighter of the Year in 2011. He worked as a butcher at the Hollywood Market and served as a volunteer firefighter since 1978 at Station 2. He was also a member of the honor guard for more than 20 years. His grandfather served as a charter member of Station 1, and Tom’s son, Jonathon, served with his father and continues to serve at Station 2. In the nomination for the award, it stated that Duncan consistently was one of the first firefighters to arrive at incidents in the middle of the night.

He also mentored new firefighters and hosted tours of the station.

During an unrelated trip to the hospital emergency room last January for severe pain to his left side, a CAT scan revealed spots on Duncan’s liver and kidneys, and doctors did tests to see if the melanoma had metastasized, which came back negative, Charlene said. He went back to work, resumed his firefighting and fishing on the Rifle River, near Omer, Mich., with his family and firefighter friends.

Doctors ordered further tests, and Duncan came home from work in mid-February of last year jaundiced. He was admitted to the hospital. Doctors performed two more biopsies and discovered the melanoma had spread rapidly.

Charlene said his firefighters from Station 2 brought the fire truck and visited with her husband at their home March 4, and he died at home with his family at his side two days later on March 6.

“He was with us when he left; he still managed to smile and laugh,” Wiseman said.

Jonathon said that his father’s firefighter friends held the first “unofficial” Tommy Duncan Ice Fishing Tournament on the Rifle River Feb. 15-16 in honor of his father.

The Duncan family — Charlene, Wiseman, Jonathon and T.J. — decided to spearhead the Aim for the Cure Melanoma Walk at Firefighters Park May 3 to raise awareness of the disease.

The Aim for the Cure Melanoma Walk will be held at 9 a.m. May 3 at Firefighters Park at 1800 Square Lake in Troy. There is no fee to participate; however, each participant is encouraged to raise $50, Wiseman said. Those who register before April 3 will receive a free T-shirt. Register online at www.aimatmelanoma.org. All proceeds from the walk will benefit Aim at Melanoma.

For more information, send email to jenn7565@gmail.com.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Terry Oparka at toparka@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1054.