June 2, 2014
Imagine overcoming cancer and only a few months later, learning you have a potentially cancerous tumor on your brain stem. Joshua Hildreth, branch manager with Davis-Ulmer Sprinkler Co.'s
Syracuse office, was hit with such news in summer 2011. He'd earlier endured six grueling weeks of chemotherapy to beat testicular cancer.
With a Stage IV cancerous tumor that couldn't be operated on, only biopsied, Hildreth underwent intensive drug and chemo treatments, even while managing to work part time. While on leave from work where he manages more than 100 employees, just prior to Thanksgiving 2012, he collapsed.
Fortunately, his wife, Jennifer, was there to give him CPR before the ambulance arrived. "My lungs were routinely three-fourths full of fluid and I'd ballooned up to 358 pounds because of the water retention from steroids," Hildreth recalls.
"It took a small community to make sure I got better," said the father of four who credits his co-workers at Davis-Ulmer with keeping his spirits up during a several month leave. "They never gave up. They took the time to visit me and my family at home and in the hospital."
Inspired by his dad's passing to cancer in 2003, Hildreth regularly participates in fundraising for charitable cancer causes. He supports St. Baldrick's Foundation and laughs off the irony that the effects of chemo precluded him from shaving his head the last couple of years. On March 30, 2013, his 7-year-old son, Tyler, will shave to support cancer research.
"Josh is so driven about the cause," said Mike Shepard, senior project manager with Davis-Ulmer, who has worked with him for 15 years. "He has inspired me personally and I believe for the rest of us here. Things have more meaning."
Despite neuropathy and other side effects of his condition, Hildreth actively participates in American Cancer Society fundraising, including its Relay for Life which sets a bar for team members to walk-or run-for 12 hours straight. At a recent relay, Hildreth used a walker to get around the track.
"I'm breathing, I'm upright and I come to work. I would take all these things in light of what I had to go through," Hildreth said, noting he will likely live with the tumor the rest of his life and has regular scans. "These are all blessings and I get to count them everyday."