Firefighter now a picture of good health
Mt. Prospect man beat cancer and more, is a triathlete and is looking out for others
The new year promises to be a productive one for Mount Prospect resident and Northbrook firefighter Steve De Luca.
He plans to run a half-marathon in July, do the Ironman Wisconsin in September and run the Chicago Marathon in October, his 25th.
However, an even larger milestone awaits him in 2017. De Luca hopes to mark his 16th year of being cancer-free, after battling stage 3 colon cancer in 2001.
His passion for endurance events is his way of celebrating his remission. But what really drives him, he said, is the chance to inspire other cancer patients.
"If I can show even one cancer patient that it doesn't have to be a death sentence," De Luca said, "then every step of a marathon or Ironman is worth it."
Beating cancer isn't the only health hazard De Luca has overcome. Just over 20 years ago, surgeons removed an acoustic neuroma from his head. It was a benign tumor, but he was left with a near total hearing loss in his left ear, and now his hearing is deteriorating in his right ear.
De Luca worried his hearing challenges would derail his fire career -- he has been a firefighter apparatus engineer for 26 years. But specialized hearing aids, now in both ears, have allowed him to continue working. The aids localize sound and enable him to recognize the dispatch tones when they go off.
Northbrook Fire Chief Jose Torres said he thinks De Luca is the only one of his nearly 100-member personnel to complete his service while wearing double hearing aids.
"I am not aware of any limitations," Torres said. "The device allows him to contribute efficiently and effectively."
De Luca relies on ReSound hearing aids. He can control their settings with an iPhone or Apple watch.
"Now I can adjust the hearing aid through the watch," De Luca said. "It was cool being able to make adjustments on the phone app, but to be able to do it on the watch is really awesome."
Between these two health issues, De Luca has become something of an ambassador for health and wellness, his chief says. De Luca is a big proponent of monitors that gauge the air quality of toxic environments that firefighters often face.
Although each firefighter use breathing apparatus, Torres said, the firefighters often have to go in afterward during the cleanup stages and face exposure to toxins and other poisonous gases.
"Steve is dedicated to other firefighters being aware of what may cause cancer," Torres said.
Torres joined the Northbrook force nearly two years ago, coming from his native California. He, too, is a triathlete, but he said it is De Luca's overall approach to good health that impresses him.
Earlier this year, Torres tapped De Luca to join Northbrook's health and wellness committee. He thought De Luca would bring a unique perspective, given his own health experiences.
"He is admired by his fellow firefighters for participating in these endurance events," Torres said. "But he is motivational as well. He does these events, not as much for himself, but for those currently suffering from cancer."