John and Ellie Black were enjoying their retired life when the unthinkable happened. John had been complaining of stomach pain for two months and decided to see a doctor when he couldn’t eat.
The day before Thanksgiving last year, while in the emergency room, a doctor told him the worst news of his life.
“They told him he had cancer,” Ellie said.
Ellie says life hasn’t been the same since. Her husband worked as a firefighter for almost 30 years.
“He helped put out the fire, the one that happened in May 1979,” Ellie said. “We had two young children and it was a devastating fire. We’ve been to Shelby all our lives.
He took a 10-year hiatus, but he couldn’t resist returning to the career that allowed him to help so many people.
Now he needs the help of the community. The Boiling Springs Fire Department is fundraising for a take-out chicken dinner to benefit the Black family as they travel back and forth to Atlanta, Georgia for treatment.
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John said he was overwhelmed by the number of people who rallied behind him.
“I tell you it’s amazing,” John said. “They raised money and churches all over here prayed for me.”
To her knowledge, cancer does not run in her family and said the news came as a shock.
“It was devastating,” John said.
After struggling to get treatment nearby, the Black family turned to cancer treatment centers in America.
“They’ve been awesome,” Ellie said. “People have been wonderful.”
Ellie describes herself as a ball of fire and her quick wit keeps her from breaking down as she watches her husband’s body reject the treatments he has received.
“He’s not doing well with it at all,” Ellie said. “He has no appetite. I know he’s fed up with me complaining about him because I keep telling him to eat and drink. They gave him fluids to help him On Friday, he looked lethargic, he was dehydrated.
Bobby Jones, who worked with John for 20 years, praised his work ethic and their friendship.
“He’s the most awesome person you can find,” Jones said. “He will give you the shirt he has on his back. We went to high school together in Crest. Then we both worked together at the Shelby Fire Department. He owned a gas station and I worked for him there.
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Jones was in John’s place 11 years ago. He was diagnosed with esophageal cancer and said the disease affected so many people he was close to.
“It’s devastating,” Jones said. “I had so many friends who died of cancer. Our cancers are different from each other, but you still go through chemo and radiation. I tried to prepare him for what he’s going to go through.
The couple just celebrated their 48th birthday last year. Ellie mentioned a pair of friends who had been married for 50 years. She tells herself that she and John will also reach 50.
“It’s tough,” Ellie said. “But I’ll be there. ‘We’ve been married since I was 18. I’m not going anywhere.’
Want to go?
Chicken dinners will be sold for $10 beginning at 11 a.m. Jan. 23 at the Boiling Springs Fire and Rescue Station at 149 N. Main St. Dinners will be sold while supplies last.
Latrice Williams can be reached at 704-669-3339 and [email protected]