Jordan Wiley, a Bishop Guilfoyle graduate, discovered something we all seek and few of us ever find - his passion and his purpose in life. He had been training, sacrificing and working hard for it for the last seven years.
He was completely fulfilled and living out his dream as a firefighter/paramedic in the District of Columbia Fire & EMS Department.
About 12 weeks after starting his dream job however, it all came to a screeching halt, when a gastrointestinal specialist at the Cleveland Clinic discovered a cancer mass at the base of his abdomen. The prognosis was not good.
Sitting with his parents, Jordan heard the physician’s analogy that he will never forget:
“Some cancers can be found in a bedroom and the door can be shut, and we can go in and remove it. Your cancer will get out of the bedroom and spread to the entire house. Your cancer is very aggressive. And, there is no cure.”
Jordan Wiley is an everyday person who was born in Ithaca, New York. Jordan spent most of his childhood moving from place to place. At the age of five, Jordan’s family moved to the suburbs of Washington, D.C., where they stayed there for seven years before his parents moved back to their hometown of Altoona, Pa.
While D.C. is a great city, Jordan’s parents wanted to move back to Altoona because they believed it would be better to raise a family in a smaller town. Jordan credits his parents for making this choice because he said his childhood was awesome!
Like most boys, Jordan grew up playing sports. He loved everything outdoors and riding dirt bikes. His favorite sport became hockey, which he continues to watch and play today. After graduating from high school, Jordan opted out of college and moved to New York City where he began searching to find his way – his passion, his purpose.
Unfortunately, Jordan had not yet found what he was looking for. At the age of 21, Jordan decided it was time to move back to Altoona. After dabbling in real estate and realizing he needed something more structured and hands-on, he completed some career-testing (a test that matches your personality with a career). This is when Jordan discovered his passion and purpose.
The process to becoming a firefighter is not simple. A career firefighter requires passing a written test, a physical agility test (obstacle course), an interview a thorough background check (which can include polygraph, psychological evaluation, visiting neighbors), and final medical clearance (EKG, blood work, etc.) before a job offer is even possible. Jordan’s journey started in 2007.
Since it is a long and extremely competitive process, Jordan refused to simply wait his turn. Instead, he took matters into his own hands to increase his odds of being accepted.
Between taking tests in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, Virginia and wherever else he could find them, he gathered volunteer hours, obtained employment as an EMT, started and finished an Associate’s Degree in Fire Science and Technology at Harrisburg Area Community College (HACC), and went to Paramedic school and completed his Bachelor’s Degree at the University of Pittsburgh. He even lived in a volunteer fire house to form relationships and learn the lifestyle. He made himself extremely valuable to hire.
Jordan knew his purpose and was unwilling to accept anything less than what he wanted and believed he deserved. It is unheard of for someone to turn down a job as a firefighter once it is offered; the opportunities are simply too few and far between. Well, Jordan turned down his first job offer as a Firefighter in York, Pa., because he would not be using his paramedic skillset, and he left his second job because the action was not consistent enough. He wanted to use his skills in emergency medicine to save lives. He wanted more.
There are very few moments in our lives where everything we have been working for comes to fruition. Jordan had his breakthrough in 2014, when he was hired as a firefighter/paramedic in the District of Columbia Fire & EMS Department.
He was beyond thrilled. He had finally accomplished his decade-long goal of becoming a career firefighter and paramedic in a busy urban setting.
Ten weeks later, he transitioned from the Academy to the field when his co-workers began noticing Jordan’s stomach getting rapidly bigger and told him to get it checked out. A few weeks and many appointments later, Jordan was told he had mucinous adenocarcinoma (later re-diagnosed as pseudomyxoma peritonei (PMP), which is a rare and aggressive cancer that occurs after the appendix ruptures and spreads to the lining of the stomach and other organs. Chemotherapy could extend his life, but not save it.
After hearing such news, most people would have crawled into a hole and wait to die, but not Jordan. Being a true warrior, he went back to work the very next day – yes the very next day – and began facing his fight head on.
Jordan endured chemotherapy for six months, and a 14-hour marathon surgery combining cytoreduction and hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC). His surgery was performed by Dr. David Bartlett, a surgical oncologist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
The operation is said to be so terrorizing that it’s been termed the Mother of All Surgeries (MOAS). They cut him open from the top of the groin to the bottom of the chest, permanently removed his gall bladder, spleen, remaining parts of his appendix, and parts of his large intestine. Furthermore, they took his remaining non-vital organs, scraped them clean with electrified wires and hot poison before returning them into his body. A total of five surgeons operated on Jordan. He was told even if he survived the surgery, he would never be able to have children, which was devastating for him to hear. All Jordan ever wanted to be was a good dad.
Some people refuse to believe in miracles, but after hearing Jordan’s survival story you will find, that miracles absolutely exist. The surgery had amazing success, and the next day Jordan was asked to try and sit upright; but that was not good enough for him. He decided to stand up and go for a walk around the floor.
After three weeks in the hospital, Jordan returned home to recover. After battling his weight loss (from the chemotherapy), he had to undergo Immunotherapy, where they reinjected his cancer cells back in his body slowly over a four month period to teach his body to reject them.
His last treatment of Immunotherapy turned out to be an amazing day. Jordan had two reasons to celebrate with his family and friends: it was his last day which marked the success of his treatment; and, the Stanley Cup was in the building. It just so happens that the Pittsburgh Penguins won their fourth Stanley Cup and it was being shown around the hospital to all the patients. Being a raving hockey fan, Jordan could not ask for a better sendoff.
“When I think about how much support I received, I sometimes feel guilty. Most people don’t get that much support. But, I did and I am forever grateful," said Jordan.
He says his co-workers are the reason why he still has his job today. While he was receiving treatment, they worked his shifts for him. His company works 24 hour shifts and takes 72 hours off. Volunteering coworkers would split or work his entire 24-hour shift at no charge.
Jordan received every paycheck in full and kept his job in Washington, D.C.
Fast forward two years later when Jordan has a clean bill of health and he has returned to full active duty getting approximately 15-20 calls a day.
When asked how he approaches his life now after facing the possibility of an early death, Jordan said, “I’m living my life now as if cancer is NOT coming back. I still want to work hard and advance my career while being a good dad and partner at home. I just want to make the best of every day.”
Jordan went on to say how he appreciates the little things in life more. He is more determined now than ever to maximize his life as a Firefighter/Paramedic, a future husband and as a father! That’s right. Jordan Wiley not only defeated his “incurable cancer,” he also became a father to his newborn son.
We classify firefighters as everyday warriors because day in and day out they place themselves in harms-way. So why do they do it? Jordan says it best: “That’s what we signed up for. We get called to action and that is what I am passionate about. I know I am going to be in a position to use my training to help people in potential life-threatening situations.”
A true warrior never says die. Jordan refused to settle for anything less than his dream job. He refused to allow cancer to win. Most importantly, he refused to accept the news that he would not become a father.
Jordan resides in Harrisburg with his fiancé, Caitlyn and their newborn son. He has recently enrolled in graduate school at Penn State’s School of Public Affairs, which is an onsite program, with his eyes set on advancing his career and making firefighting and EMS in Washington, D.C., his life’s work. Meanwhile, he continues to travel to the D.C. area to work his 24-hour shifts.
Article via Warriors Magazine