Wellesley firefighter battling cancer gets special surprise on last day of treatment

WELLESLEY, MASS. (WHDH) - It was a special moment for a firefighter in Wellesley who just underwent her final day of cancer treatment after battling it for more than a year-and-a-half.

Joanie Cullinan was only supposed to celebrate this exciting milestone with her chief and fellow firefighters but, they had something else in mind.

A caravan of dozens of cars packed with friends and family rolled up in a socially distant show of support.

“It was pretty surreal after being in lockdown for the past six weeks and not showing any of my loved ones,” Cullinan said.

She was diagnosed with stage three melanoma early last year after undergoing a free skin check that was being offered by the Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts.

Cancer, unfortunately, spread to her lymph nodes.

Cullinan knows that it was detection that likely saved her life.

“Cancer stinks,” she said. “It was horrible, but I didn’t tell anybody. Now they can know it was the worst year of my life.”

Over the course of that year and undergoing oral chemotherapy, Cullinan teamed up with the 1540 Connection, a group of people who educate others on detecting cancer early on.

Even when she’s not on the job, she is still fighting to save lives.

“I think she turned that energy into something positive, raising awareness, cancer under 40,” Cullinan’s mother Donna said.

She plans to be back to work in three to six months.

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