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Hundreds of firefighters attend funeral for Milwaukee Lt. responsible for improving cancer screening


More than 150 firefighters gathered at Milwaukee’s St. Margaret Mary Church Wednesday night for an emotional send-off.

They joined friends and family to honor Kristin Ciganek, a 47-year-old Lieutenant who passed away last Wednesday after a lengthy battle with cancer.

    “She was a fighter,” says Deputy Chief Aaron Lipski. “She was strong, she was positive. She was good at what she did.”

5 years ago, Ciganek was at work when she jumped down from her fire rig and felt a sharp pain in her stomach. That pain turned out to be stage 4 colon cancer.

Lipski says taking a leave of absence was not easy. 

    "She was so team oriented, and she wouldn't let her team down even in the worst of times," he says. 

Studies show cancer is now the number one cause of death among modern firefighters.

    “It’s beyond horrific right now to be a modern firefighter, with everything we’ve got in our homes and office spaces and factories. It’s a horribly dangerous profession to be in,” says Lipski.

But he says Ciganek loved the job, and made everyone around her better.

She was given just a few months to live, but ended up fighting the cancer for more than 5 years.

During that time, she worked with state leaders to bring grant money to Milwaukee for better cancer screening.

    “What that in effect did, was every Milwaukee firefighter once a year gets a complete and very detailed physical, specifically looking for heavy metals and other items known to cause cancer in firefighters,” says Lipski.

    “Instead of just sitting down and letting the world pass her by, she did something about it.”   

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