Latest News

From fighting fires to fighting cancer

Oshawa firefighter shares his battle with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

Tim Sutton, a local firefighter, visited Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto while undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments to battle Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Today he is cancer free and is back fighting fires. (Submitted photo)

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express

Tim Sutton is a father, a husband, a firefighter, a coach, a philanthropist, and a cancer survivor.

Sutton was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in November 2015. Fortunately, it went into remission in April 2016.

While the cancer is now in remission, that doesn’t mean Sutton has stopped working to beat it. He helps run a charity slo-pitch tournament with fellow firefighter Andrew McCuaig.

McCuaig, who had only recently joined the team and didn’t know Sutton very well when he was diagnosed, reached out while he was in recovery to the tournament to help raise money for the fight against Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and cancer as a whole.

“We kept reaching out to him and he didn’t really need anything,” says McCuaig. “Then myself and Candice Hollingshead decided we’d start a baseball tournament.”

They ended up hosting the tournament for the first time in September 2016.

The event started with only four teams compared to 30 that competed this year.

Ever since they began the tournament, Sutton and McCuaig have gotten very close.

McCuaig speaks very highly of Sutton, as he says, “Tim’s one of the nicest guys on the fire department. And he’s got two young daughters at home, and you just see that they’re his world. That’s what he talks about when we’re at work, whether they’re playing hockey or at school. I like the dad aspect of him.”

According to McCuaig, when he came back from his treatment, Sutton’s crew celebrated by bringing him a cake.

McCuaig, who recently won a humanitarian award from Oshawa Fire Services, says that Sutton was the first person to call after it was announced.

Sutton was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma when it was discovered that he had an enlarged lymph node.

Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is a type of blood cancer that starts in the lymphatic system, the part of the body that helps the immune system to get rid of waste as well as to fight infections.

Sutton was told by his doctor that it could be related to a number of possibilities ranging from an STI to an infection from a broken leg.

However, only one possibility stuck out to Sutton, and that was cancer. Sutton says that he knew he had cancer before he had an official diagnosis, as no other option was even a possibility in his mind.

Sutton says that waiting for the results of the biopsy on the lymph node was the worst part and that it was a relief when he found out because “the wait is over, now let’s try to figure out how to fix it.”

Sutton says that his wife, Emily, was in disbelief when they got the diagnosis, but when it came down to it, she took on a lot to support him in his time of need.

His three daughters, ages 12, 10, and seven, all understood that their father was not going to be able to run around and play with them as much as normal, even if they did have a little bit of trouble understanding what was going on.

When he was officially diagnosed, Sutton says that while the resources in Oshawa are excellent, he quickly asked for a referral to the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto.

He says that this is because of the reputation that the cancer centre carries. He felt that his best odds were there because it has a reputation that is known around the world, and that it is considered one of the top five cancer research centres in the world.

After beginning his treatment, Sutton says that he simply wanted to keep life as normal as possible.

“One of the biggest things is that I just kept trying to keep my life as normal as possible,” he says.

He says that he continued to coach his daughter’s hockey team.

“Being around the kids, working with them, it’s a really rewarding experience,” he says.

He continued to go to the gym – except for on chemo days, and he would walk to his dog. But even that would become labouring after a chemo session.

“Chemo and radiation are obviously horrible. They’re both cancer-causing. But [the doctors] have done their research – they’ve figured out how to limit the exposure of both of those,” says Sutton.

Food became an issue for Sutton, as he was unable to enjoy some of the foods that he likes most.

With things like hamburgers and steaks, there was the distinct possibility if he ate it too close to doing a session of chemo, he would vomit.

To this day, Sutton still has issues eating some foods because he associates them with his chemotherapy.

Sutton says that all of the support he got from those around him, from family to friends, to other parents, was a huge pick-me-up.

“They just rallied around me,” he says. “And that’s what people need.”

He says that he liked to get out of the house as much as he could and to be social.

However, Sutton admits that not everyone reached out to him, with some admitting that they simply didn’t know what to say.

He believes they could have just sent him a funny text to cheer him up and they didn’t need to ask how he was doing and be there for his daily life.

“A funny text can go a long way,” he says.

Sutton says that those who did reach out would bring care packages and food as well as simply showing that they cared.

“The support, it was incredible all around,” he says. “It got to the point where all that I could eat was Kraft Dinner and chicken noodle soup.”

He also says that other firefighters helped as well by raising money to help him go between his home of Oshawa and the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto where he was receiving his treatment.

However, Sutton is now cancer free and has gone back to work. In fact, he participated in the slo-pitch tournament this year as an umpire.

Sutton says that the thing he is most proud of is his family.

“We’ve raised three kids, and they’ve turned out to be really well rounded, well behaved, good-mannered kids,” he says with pride.

Sutton says, “My advice to anyone who has cancer is that you do anything that you need to do in order to get through it.”