Fuquay-Varina, N.C. — Ever since tenth grade, Summer Williams wanted to do a job that would help people. In high school, she joined the Fire Explorers program with the Fuquay-Varina Fire Department.
“You could just tell when she started that this was her passion,” said Fire Chief Tony Mauldin.
Williams fought against the stereotype that women couldn’t work in the male-dominated field and enrolled in the Wake County Fire Academy.
But before she enrolled in the Academy, she was diagnosed with a rare skin cancer: acral lentiginous melanoma.
“I actually had to have a toe amputated because it was on a spot on my toe,” Williams said.
By the time she was in training at the fire academy, the cancer returned. Doctors had to remove seven of her lymph nodes.
She underwent immunotherapy, chemotherapy all while still training in the fire academy. She knows she could have put it on hold, but she didn’t want to.
“I couldn’t leave that group,” she said. “People had already grown such a strong bond with everyone and everyone already had my back and were helping me complete everything else.”
In May, the cancer showed up in her brain so she had to have brain surgery to remove it. A couple of months later, doctors found more tumors on her brain, in her neck and in her spine.
“I was determined to get this done and just keep going,” Williams said.
At 23-years-old Williams graduated from the fire academy.
“As a department, we said we want to get her dream to come true,” Mauldin said.
Mauldin said he’s proud to see Williams in her uniform.
“She’s an inspiration to anybody,” he said.
Williams will likely have to undergo chemotherapy next week but she hopes to be on a regular shift at the fire department by January.