My name is Joe Militello. I was born in New Jersey, and I started my EMS career there because my mother and father were very active for our local volunteer ambulance service, Haledon Ambulance Service. I completed my EMT certification in 1978. After I moved to Florida in 1984, I worked for North County EMS and Jupiter Medical Center for 11 years as EMS director. While at Jupiter Medical Center, I met my wife, Kimberly, and we have been very happily married for 20 years. We have two wonderful children, Jonathon, 18, and Alicia, 15. I am currently working as a firefighter paramedic engineer for North Palm Beach (FL) Fire Rescue. I have been employed by North Palm for the past 15 years.
I was diagnosed in October 2011 with stage IV non-Hodgkin follicular B-cell lymphoma. My initial reaction was not fear, but anger! Not a violent type of anger, more like a “You’re not going to kill me” type of anger. My first question to my oncologist was not “Am I going to die?” or “How long do I have?” It was “OK … when do we start the treatment so I can get rid of this crap?”!
Everyone in the fire service has someone who stands out, who has made a difference in his or her path, career and life. I have two. They are my father, Salvatore, of course, for his strength and resilience, and my father-in-law, Alfred “Teddy” Senecal. My father-in-law was a fire captain for West Palm Beach (FL) Fire Rescue. He retired after 32 years of service in 2004. In his third year of retirement, he was diagnosed with kidney cancer, then esophageal cancer. Nine months after his diagnosis, he passed away.
Once my chemotherapy started, my mind went crazy with all of the “what-ifs”! My salvation was my faith in God and my loving family. Then I reached out for more answers and found Debbie Pike and Keith Tyson of the Firefighter Cancer Support Network. I received weekly calls and emails from the FCSN. Because of their caring support, I proudly became a mentor myself. I am currently in remission. I will get my final cancer clearance in October 2016. I consider that my next graduation.
I am a firefighter! I have faced cancer, and I will ALWAYS be there for whomever I can, whenever I can! This is what I live by. Stay healthy and stay safe!