CHAGRIN FALLS, Ohio — Chagrin Falls Fire Marshal Jim Finley isn’t a stranger to "life’s unexpected." Just one month ago he received a shocking cancer diagnosis out of the blue.
"I just went to work and wasn't feeling great and ended up at Ahuja Medical Center thanks to our medical director," Finley said. "[I was] thinking I was just tired or something and then they said leukemia cancer center so it just sort of flipped my world upside down there."
Finley is already fighting back - immediately undergoing weeks of inpatient treatment at University Hospital’s Seidman Cancer Center.
But this purple heart recipient has overcome obstacles before, surviving a suicide bomb attack in Iraq.
He first told 3News about his time in the Navy back in October.
"The only reason I'm still here is because the seat next to me was empty on that Humvee so that door stayed closed but still enough shrapnel came through that it ricocheted through my neck went into my lungs," he said. "So I ended up uh with four chest tubes and a tracheostomy."
When 3News first met Jim then, he was raising the money to launch a sailing program here in Cleveland for other veterans. Those who know him best say, the effort is typical Jim.
"[He is] probably the funniest human being I've ever met in my life - so, so funny, so just good-hearted, takes care of everyone, especially me," said Finley's wife Beth.
Chagrin Falls Fire Chief Frank Zugan says the community has rallied around Jim and his Beth since his sudden diagnosis.
"He's got a thousands of friends. They're repaying him right now for all the stuff he's done for them, the humor he's brought to our area and in the valley um truly speaks to how what type of person Jim is."
Finley's fire department family, the 550 Club of Chagrin Falls and countless friends stepped up to create "Team Finley." Now on tee-shirts, stickers, and a GoFundMe account started to help with expenses.
"The goal is $86,400 which has which has a meaning of 86,400 seconds in a day and it's what you do with each second that matters," Zugan said.
Jim still has a lot of long days ahead – he’s facing six months in and out of the hospital in treatment.
In the meantime, he hasn’t forgotten about that sailboat, Intrepid.
"It's probably going to take the better part of this year to get it repaired which is fine because I'm not going anywhere anytime soon," Finley said. "Yeah if we can make that old boat sail, we can make this old boat sail."
And he won’t be doing it alone.
"It's just pretty incredible that there's so much love out there and people really really want to help in any way so it's it's really wonderful," Beth said.
And Jim says, he's set to face this challenge like the many others he's encountered along the way.
"Things are things are a little tough right now," he said. "But I'll just keep going until something stops me. But i don't see anything stopping me yet."
If you are interested in purchasing a "Team Finley" wristband or sticker, please contact the Chagrin Falls Fire Department at 440-247-7321.