Credit: Clem Murray / The Philadelphia Inquirer
Sirens blared as firefighters descended upon Philadelphia Energy Solutions, the largest gasoline refinery complex on the East Coast, following a series of explosions in June 2019. Linda Long joined more than 100 Philadelphia firefighters to combat the blaze that took more than 24 hours to extinguish.
“I got injured at work at the refinery explosion about three years ago,” Linda said. “I had trouble breathing for a year, and then I just started feeling dizzy all the time.”
A physical by Linda’s primary care physician followed by a plethora of tests did not turn up any explanation for her symptoms. She turned to an ear, nose, and throat doctor at Penn Medicine to determine what was at the root of her balance issues, headaches, and fatigue. The doctor sent Linda to undergo an MRI in March 2021, which finally pinpointed the cause — a brain tumor.
Linda’s health team resected her tumor over two surgeries six weeks apart. At the time, they determined it was glioblastoma and gave her less than a year to live.
“I’ve had a couple more MRIs since chemo ended in April 2022, and nothing is growing, so my oncologist hopes I have at least five more years with Optune [a wearable, portable, FDA-approved treatment for glioblastoma].”
Linda joined the Philadelphia Fire Department in 1990 as a paramedic, working her way up the ladder for 15 years before deciding to start over as a cadet in the fire academy. She quickly made an impression, receiving promotion after promotion until she became the first female battalion chief of the Philadelphia Fire Department in 2017.
A fellow paramedic-turned-firefighter, Will Tung, formed a close friendship with Linda.
“Linda was one of the instructors when I was in the academy in 2012 — a very, very good instructor,” Will said. “We’ve been in contact ever since. I’m now a lieutenant with the fire department.”
Following Linda’s diagnosis, colleagues kept reaching out to Will, wanting to find a way to help. Will asked Linda whether he could start a GoFundMe page, and she declined. Instead, she suggested that Will form a Race for Hope Philadelphia team to raise money for brain tumor research.
“I said maybe we could start a team and raise money for cancer because, honestly, a lot of firefighters get cancer,” Linda explained.
It’s why Linda’s co-workers are joining PFD Brain Team at the Race for Hope Philadelphia on Oct. 8, 2022, to raise funds in her honor. The event takes place at Navy Yard, one of Linda’s coverage areas when she worked as an EMS officer.
“Unfortunately, I knew a paramedic who died of glioblastoma several years ago as well as too many firefighters and paramedics who died of other types of cancer during my career,” Linda said. “It makes me super happy that something positive is being done in my name.”
Help drive discoveries and make lasting change by donating to Linda and Will’s fundraising efforts or by participating in the upcoming Race for Hope Philadelphia. Events help bring the brain tumor community together to honor, learn, develop meaningful relationships, turn grief into action, and fuel momentum for our cause.