Friends rally around Dupo fireman battling cancer - Republic-Times | News

Friends rally around Dupo fireman battling cancer

By on October 18, 2017 at 3:44 pm

Dupo firefighter Paul Morris, who is battling stage 4 colon cancer, allows firefighter April Odehnal to shave his head at the fire station as his daughters Ashley (left) and Kaitlyn look on. (submitted photo)

Paul Morris has given his time to serving others, including volunteering as a Dupo firefighter over the past 17 years.

He and his wife, Kelly, have two daughters. Kaitlyn was an explorer with the department as a kid, and Ashley volunteers as a firefighter. Morris’ full-time job is as a boilermaker.

Life seemed to be going well for Morris, who over the years established a rapport with the rest of the firefighters and loved to hang out and joke around with the group. 

Then came the diagnosis.

Recently, Morris discovered he has stage 4 colon cancer after doctors worked feverishly over the past year to figure out why he had fallen ill. The news left him in shock.

“I remember this feeling of disbelief. I thought, ‘This can’t be real. This is not what I was thinking,’” Morris said. 

When Morris shared the news with his firefighter buddies, that disbelief became a shared reality.

“This is truly one of those ‘Why him?’ situations,” Dupo firefighter Monte Miller said. “I’ve known Paul for more than a dozen years and when I first joined the fire department he was one of the first to make me feel welcome … I’ve never seen Paul angry and never seen him shy away from working at the firehouse or serving his town. 

“One of the first fires I was ever in was with Paul and one of the scariest fires I’ve ever been in was with Paul, but he always stays on an even keel … Paul is normally a quiet guy, but once he gets into telling one of his stories, look out.”

However, not much time passed before the rest of the firefighters decided they wanted to actively show their support for Morris. And so came the idea to shave their heads clean last Monday night.

“We were just talking and somehow we got onto doing this. We were talking about the cancer and about how I’d be going bald, and then they just kinda threw out there, ‘Hey we should do that for you,’” Morris said. “It was just a way for us to do something as a group and have fun. 

“It was quite enjoyable. We had several calls because of the storm that night that the guys had to run out to while this was going on.”

Miller said this was a no-brainer for someone who constantly puts other people’s needs ahead of his own.

“It is the least we can do to show support for someone we really care about … Paul is a great guy and would do anything for anyone without asking anything in return,” Miller said.

Stage 4 cancer is defined as having spread to other organs or parts of the body, and Morris confirmed as much. Morris added, though, that the prognosis is positive since this kind of cancer is manageable.

That being said, the veteran firefighter’s first chemotherapy treatment was recently completed, and his second round was set to take place Wednesday.

“The first round went very well. It was better than what I expected,” he said. “I was feeling sick leading up to it so I wasn’t sure how it would go. I’m just feeling tired and that’s it.”

Sean McGowan

Sean is a die-hard Cubs fan, despite the relentless peer pressure coming from the rest of the Republic-Times staff. He and his wife, Jacqui, have been married for two years. Originally from the west suburbs of Chicago, Sean and his wife moved down to Normal to attend Illinois State University and stayed central Illinois residents for the past four years.