Mesa firefighter unbeaten, unbowed in cancer fight The Mesa Tribune | The Hometown Newspaper for the city of Mesa, AZ

Mesa firefighter unbeaten, unbowed in cancer fight

Mesa firefighter unbeaten, unbowed in cancer fight

By David Leibowitz
Tribune Columnist

It’s late on Day 548 since Trevor Madrid learned about the rare cancer attacking his gut and the 35-year-old is laughing long and loud.

It should not surprise that a Mesa fire fighter who runs into burning buildings for a living laughs in the face of the Big C.

His laughter keeps coming, as do his expressions of conviction.

“I don’t worry that I’m not going to beat this thing,” says the father of two. “I have no doubt in my mind that we’re going to get through this. It’s going to be rough, but there’s no way I’m not going to make it for my family.”

In this lost year we call 2020, Madrid radiates positivity the way some of us broadcast first-world problems.

He is the latest in a long line of Arizona firefighters fighting cancer caused by the job and the wicked carcinogens laced in smoke.

Yet even among cancer-afflicted first responders, Madrid is a rarity. He’s battling synovial sarcoma, which attacks soft tissue. For every million Americans, one or two share Madrid’s each year. Give or take, doctors annually report about 500 cases of synovial sarcoma out of 1.8 million cancer diagnoses.

“Most oncologists will never see this cancer in their lifetime,” says Angela, Trevor’s high school sweetheart, wife and rock. “You have a better chance of winning the lottery.”

Which is how Trevor Madrid
feels about life, even with those 548 days of cancer.

He joined Mesa Fire in 2007 at age 21. He married Angela seven years ago. Along came daughter Mila, now three, and son Maverick, 11 months old.

It’s all great – with the possible exception of the 25 radiation treatments and five weeks of chemotherapy Madrid is facing, to be followed by two surgeries to remove the five-centimeter tumor lodged between his bladder and tailbone.

“If we have a bad day, usually there’s not two in a row,” Trevor explains. “That’s the promise Ang and I made to each other and we call each other out on it.”

They’ve had some practice. Day One with cancer happened last March, when Madrid experienced a ton of abdominal swelling.

He’s a macho firefighter – so naturally he refused to go to the doctor. Besides, this was basically the best week of the Madrids’ marriage, ever. Angela had just found she was pregnant again. And her online baby clothing business, Kind Knots, was racking up record sales.

“Everything we had just unraveled at that moment,” says Trevor. “It all came to a screeching halt. Time almost freezes.”

Since then, Trevor has been through dozens of radiation treatments, high dose chemo, surgeries, endless trips to Mayo Clinic and Sloan Kettering in New York City.

His fellow firefighters have donated thousands of hours of leave, so he can take time off for treatment, and perfect strangers continue to donate to a GoFundMe run by the East Valley Fire Fighter Charities: (

For a while, Trevor thought he had cancer licked – he even returned to work in February – but a scan revealed this new tumor.

A lesser man might have cracked. Madrid? He started making funny cancer videos on TikTok and Instagram. He’s kind of a big deal now, the fire fighter you can find at @kind_knots.

His videos have 2.7 million views and 150,000 followers. They’re full of joy, inspiration and perseverance – exactly like the man himself.

“I’m willing to do whatever I have to do to be here with my family,” says Trevor Madrid. “I just have a mindset that we are going to get through this, no matter what it takes.” ′

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