Fundraiser planned for firefighter battling aggressive brain cancer

Posted at 5:56 PM, Mar 31, 2015
and last updated 2015-04-12 12:38:13-04

ALLEGAN COUNTY, Mich. -- Jerry Heasley has been fighting fires in Salem Township for 30 years, and he's been a full-time truck driver for 20 years.

In February 2014, all of that came to an abrupt end when the unexpected happened.

"I bent over to pick something up, and I fell over," he recalled.

Heasley continued, "I told my wife, and she said, 'you better go see a doctor.'"

Instead, Heasley decided to take it easy. After a week, he said he had trouble remembering things.

"[I] walked in the home, could not think of my wife's name or my kids' names," he said.

His wife had already set up an appointment after he fell.

"[The doctor] says, 'you have a brain tumor. You have to go to Grand Rapids,'" Heasley recalled.

He added, "So the next day we went to Grand Rrapids for an MRI and they said, 'yea, what you have is not good. It's the worst you could get. We have no cure for it.'"

Heasley said doctors gave him "1 to 7 years [to live] if I get treatment, and if I don't get treatment, I got three months."

He chose treatment and underwent surgery to have the tumor removed. Every two months since then, he's gone in for checkups.
Recently, he found out the cancer is back.

"The first one was one [tumor] in my brain. This one was two," he explained.

Six weeks ago, he had the tumors removed. However, he was told they could come back. Now his department and the community are rallying around him and his wife.

Mark Brookhouse is a friend and fellow firefighter.

Brookhouse said of the financial need, "I think any time you have, you start struggling with major medical bills... insurance can only go so far."

Brookhouse and the Salem Township Fire Department organized a fundraiser to help pay medical expenses. It'll take place at Centershot Gun Range in Dorr on April 20th from 5 to 8 p.m. Brookhouse said there will be range competitions, and a chili cook-off between participating fire departments.

Another friend even started a gofundme page for Heasely, found here.

Brookhouse said, "He's got the servant heart. He's been on the fire department for 30 years. He helps out the community. Some of his hobbies: he enjoys motorcycle riding, he enjoys hunting and the outdoors. He's one of the guys that would do anything for you."

Heasley said of the community help, "It really means a lot. It catches inside your heart. Your feelings and everybody you know is pushing pushing pushing to make things go good for you, the best you can, the best they can until time comes for an end."