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South Jersey Firefighter Working To Help Others After Beating Colorectal Cancer

MOUNT LAUREL, N.J. (CBS) -- A South Jersey firefighter is used to suiting up and putting out fires, rushing in to save lives. Now, he's helping save lives in a much different way. It's a mission inspired by a battle of his own.

In August 2018, then 47-year-old firefighter Joseph Maschke's life changed forever.

"The worst day of my life, hands down. Three kids. What to do?" he said.

Maschke had colorectal cancer despite no warning signs showing up in his bloodwork and his doctor telling him he was too young for a colonoscopy.

Still dealing with the shock and fear of the news, he and his wife Theresa sprung to action.

"Basically, how fast can we get this up and going and what treatment, was the biggest issue. How are they going to treat it?" Maschke said.

Maschke endured six months of chemotherapy and steroids, then radiation, surgery and a reversal.

"As they put it, cured, which is a good thing, hands down. But I gotta take certain pills the rest of my life," he said.

But the Maschkes took all they've been through and still live with and paid it forward, agreeing to testify before the New Jersey state Senate in support of a bill that would decrease the age for insurance coverage of colonoscopies from 50 to 45.

"It's awful that we've been through it, but let's make lemonade out of this now. Let's make it better for other people," Theresa said.

This Father's Day will be Joe's third being cancer-free.

"We love him, we're so proud of him. He would move the world for us and he's everything to us," Theresa said.

After Joe and Theresa testified before the state Senate, the bill they were advocating for passed unanimously. It now moves to the Assembly.

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