Illinois firefighter with terminal cancer takes final ride home in ambulance with fiancé, dog

An Illinois firefighter diagnosed with terminal cancer took his final ride home Tuesday in the very same ambulance he once used to transport patients.

Frank Nunez, 34, was diagnosed with a rare form of soft tissue cancer called synovial sarcoma in 2019.

He was treated with chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, and went into remission.

Frank and Christina | Credit: Northwestern

In 2021, the cancer returned in his left lung, and he participated in several clinical trials.


During his treatment, he never stopped working at the Itasca Fire Protection District.

Nunez started his career in 2014 and joined the Itasca Fire Protection District in 2018.

Frank Nunez and Max | Credit Northwestern University

He recently finished a fire inspector training class before being admitted to Northwestern Memorial in late September with terminal cancer.

Nunez is intubated, but his fellow firefighters have never left his side. They rotate visits every day and communicate with him via text message and dry-erase boards.

On Sept. 21, Nunez celebrated his 34th birthday with a commitment ceremony to his fiancé, Christina, inside his hospital room.

The two live in Crystal Lake and met two months before Nunez was diagnosed with cancer in 2019. They got engaged in June 2022, and share a dog, Max, who still waits by the door for Nunez to come home. 

This week, Nunez was able to say goodbye to his mother when she visited him in the Medical Intensive Care Unit. They said goodbyes via messages on the dry-erase board.

His mother just recently received a stem cell transplant for leukemia at Northwestern Memorial.

Frank and Christina | Credit: Northwestern

Itasca firefighters transported Nunez to his home Tuesday, where he will be on hospice care.

He took his final ride in the same ambulance he once used to transport patients.

He was accompanied by his fellow firefighters, Christina and his furry friend, Max.