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Colleagues rally to help Edmond firefighter extinguish doubts about family's future

Edmond firefighter John Werhun was emotional when he learned his co-worker, fellow firefighters and strangers want to help his family. Werhun has had cancer for nearly five years.
by Diana Baldwin Modified: April 5, 2013 at 8:01 pm •  Published: April 6, 2013

Edmond firefighter John Werhun was touched when he learned his co-workers and friends wanted to help his family if cancer wins a battle he has fought for nearly five years.

“It took me about an hour to stop the tears,” the 42-year-old father of two teenage daughters wrote in an email to Edmond dispatcher Andrew Martin after learning two weeks ago about fundraising efforts for his family.

Werhun, a 19-year Edmond firefighter, remained in hospice care Friday at home with his wife, Joyce, and his family.

“I have to say I have never been more comfortable and secure in the idea that my girls will be taken care of completely when I'm gone,” Werhun, 42, said in his email. “I wish I could stay for many more years and really get to know you all better, and to express how grateful I am for this.”

Werhun, a fire captain at Station 1, continued working after he was diagnosed with colon cancer. Surgeries, chemotherapy treatment and the disease didn't keep him off the job until the middle of last month.

“He would usually miss a day at a time, and as soon as he quit throwing up and could keep something down he would be back at work,” Battalion Chief Shawn Horn said. “The chemo was affecting his hands and feet. He would wear gloves and be working out to maintain his strength.

“He has been amazing. People around here would be upset about this or that and they would watch John and say they better keep their mouths shut.”

In 2009, Werhun and fellow firefighter Tim Vernon, who also has cancer, fought hard to secure workers' compensation benefits, claiming their cancers were job-related. The state Supreme Court ruled in favor of the firefighters.

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by Diana Baldwin
Sr. Reporter
Diana Baldwin has been an Oklahoma journalist since 1976 and came to The Oklahoman in 1991. She covered the Oklahoma City bombing and covered the downfall of Oklahoma City police forensic chemist Joyce Gilchrist misidentifying evidence. She wrote...
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