Two young firefighters working out of the same firehouse in Racine County are facing their biggest battle yet.
Caledonia firefighter Alex Hagen, 25, and South Shore firefighter Rudi Betancourt, 24, were diagnosed with cancer within weeks of each other.
"There are good and bad days," Hagen says. "I had just gotten my dream job, and bought a house, then boom something like this happens and you have no idea what to do."
Hagen is battling Ewing's Sarcoma, a rare type of bone cancer that strikes people between the ages of 11 and 25 years old. There are only about 1000 cases of it reported each year. Doctors found it, after Hagen broke a bone in his leg while responding to an emergency call.
"I consider him one of my brothers going through this," Betancourt says. "It definitely helps having him, knowing he's going through the same thing."
Betancourt has Hodgkin's Lymphoma. He was getting extremely fatigued at work, and his neck was abnormally swelling. Doctors found a tumor the size of a football in his chest.
Both Hagen and Betancourt are going through chemotherapy. Their fellow firefighters have banded together to support them. Making meals, driving them to doctor's appointments, and being there to talk.
"The support has been overwhelming," Betancourt says. "It really helps because it keeps my mind off what I'm going through. Being a firefighter is my life, and my fire station is truly my family."
Fellow firefighters are also raising money to help with growing medical bills.
"It's been unbelievable," Hagen says. "I can't thank everyone enough. I don't know how I ever well. I just want them to know I'm going to get through this, and come back and do whatever I can to thank them for the rest of my life."
It's not just firefighters stepping-up for Hagen and Betancourt. People in the community, even complete strangers from all over southeast Wisconsin have been organizing fundraisers to help them.
Here is a list of some the upcoming fundraisers:
Scr-Ewing's Sarcoma benefit for Alex Hagen
1 p.m. Sunday, May 22 at Rivals Sports Pub and Grille, 6325 120th Ave., Kenosha.
$20 in advance or $25 at the door for adults 21 and older. $10 in advance or $15 at the door for anyone between 6 and 20. Free for children under 5.
Pizza, beer, music. There will be an auction and 50/50 raffle.
Wear yellow in support of Ewing's sarcoma research.
For more information: scrEwingsAH@yahoo.com
Rudi Strong Benefit
4:30 p.m. June 10. (adults only between 9 p.m. and 12:30 a.m.).
The Metal Grill, 5036 S. Packard Ave., Cudahy.
$10 raffle, live music.
For more information: www.themetalgrill.com, 414-378-0898