Marble Falls Fire Rescue Capt. Coy Guenter checks a self-contained breathing apparatus on his first day back to full-time duty after a bout with colorectal cancer. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro
Marble Falls Fire Rescue Capt. Coy Guenter returned to full-time duty Tuesday, Dec. 14, after 18 weeks recovering from colorectal cancer. He is back a year to date from when he was diagnosed with the disease.
“I never realized how great this community is,” said the 52-year-old as he leaned back in his office chair upon his return. “I’ve been overwhelmed by the support and everything people have given me.”
In October 2020, a routine physical led to a colon check for Guenter.
“It ended up saving my life,” he said. “I had no symptoms. (My doctor) got it scheduled, and, luckily, she did.”
Colorectal cancer is the second-deadliest cancer for men and women combined but also one of the most preventable, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Firefighters are at particular risk. A study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health showed firefighters are more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with an invasive cancer such as colon cancer than the general population because of their exposure to toxic chemicals when fighting fires.
Guenter is a strong advocate for regular physical and wellness exams as well as cancer screenings.
“If you catch it early, you can survive it,” he said. “It’s easy to get checked. It’s one day of trouble for peace of mind knowing the hidden killer isn’t there.”
In March, Guenter began 28 sessions of radiation and chemotherapy. On July 2, he underwent a seven-hour surgery to remove 10 inches of colon and had to wear an ostomy bag for several months. Six weeks ago, the bag was removed and his colon was reconstructed during a two-hour surgery.
“I feel like a new firefighter — excited and giddy,” he said. “My energy level is wonderful.”
To ease back into the job, Guenter has been working on flagpoles to ensure his firefighting equipment remains in good order.
The community rallied around Guenter and his family during the ordeal by raising money and helping in other ways. Just as important to him were the kind and encouraging words he received.
“I want to thank my family and friends and all the organizations that helped me,” he said. “I couldn’t have done it without them. Lean on your family and friends because they’ll be there for you and help you through the process.”