|SLVFD Member Featured In Scott Firefighter Stairclimb Article|
|By Deputy Chief - Fire Thomas Buckmaster|
|January 24, 2017|
The following is an article written about SLVFD life member Chris Sleeper, the link for the full article can be found below.
In order to avoid serious complications with surgery, patients are instructed to avoid eating before undergoing a procedure. But what happens if you forget this rule and eat breakfast the morning you’re scheduled to go under the knife? Just ask Chris Sleeper, captain of the St. Leonard Fire Department team. Luckily in his case, no complications occurred, but that’s because for his surgery he simply opted out of having anesthesia altogether and decided to bear through the pain. Postponing a surgery just for some glorified painkillers simply isn’t his style.
It was that morning when doctors cut a two-inch incision in Chris’s neck, inserted a dialysis tube in order to begin separating his blood cells, ended up removing two freezer bags worth of white blood cells from his body, and sewed him back up all without numbing. This was just the beginning of a journey in battling his own blood, as Chris had recently been diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia.
This procedure was the first of a series of blood transfusions, chemo pills and being in and out of the hospital as his white blood cell count would fluctuate. Chris even spent one Christmas Eve in the hospital receiving a blood transfusion.
Over a large part of the course of his treatment, Chris was required to wear gloves and a face mask in order to minimize contact with external germs. He had become neutropenic, meaning he was essentially left without an immune system and was extremely susceptible to additional illnesses. While Chris is currently in a stable condition, if it weren’t for his daily chemotherapy pill he would be at serious risk for a relapse and having his blood cells wreck havoc on his body once again.
When he first found out he had cancer, Chris wasn’t thinking of himself. He immediately worried about what his four kids would do without him if he were to pass away.
“The hardest part is not knowing whether or not he was going to live or die,” Chris’s wife, Tina Sleeper, said. “It was really tough not being able to have the kids even touch him at times.”
For Tina, Chris is so much more than just a husband and father. When he isn’t spending time raising his family or working at the firehouse, he stays busy driving an 18-wheeler for Safeway, and constantly remains positive and dedicated. This attitude even persisted when, in a shocking twist, Tina herself was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2011.
Thankfully, she is now five years clean, and says that, “Chris was the backbone of our family for the six months he had to watch me go through surgery and chemo. He’s just a fighter, there isn’t another word for it. If he saw someone on the side of the road he would stop to help them no questions asked. He’s just that type of guy.”
To his family and those around him, he is a pillar of strength, perseverance, and love. He never lets his disease take away from the value of his life and is described as having an absolute heart of gold. Whether it’s a good day or a bad day, he has always pushed forward despite side effects and a discouraging diagnosis. More than ever, he is strongly invested in the mission of the Scott Firefighter Stairclimb.
As a participant since 2011, he is amazed at the camaraderie he is able to experience and witness on event day, and is truly moved by the collective giving spirit of all those involved. In fact for this year’s Stairclimb, Chris is climbing in honor of a fellow St. Leonard firefighter who recently began treatment for AML.
Ultimately, Chris is thankful. “If people didn’t raise all the funds that they do for LLS, then the medicine I take probably wouldn’t be available and I wouldn’t even be here,” Sleeper said. “Just don’t take your life for granted because one little thing can take you out. Give your kids an extra hug today.”
Written by: Emily Muirhead, LLS Campaign Assistant