ALPENA - As fire trucks and ambulances idled outside on standby, more than 60 firefighters, law enforcement officers and friends held hands Thursday and prayed for Bob Kaszubowski.
A popular firefighter, Kaszubowski developed esophageal cancer in March 2012, and was headed to the Henry Ford for surgery early this morning.
The event was planned as a surprise. Kaszubowski entered the fire station at 10:40 a.m. and was greeted with applause.
"I realy need this, I really need this," he said repeatedly as he went down a line of people and hugged each one.
"This is so special and I love each one of you and I'd help each of you out," he said. "You can't fight this without friends. It plays a lot of mental games with you."
The prayer was led by Resurrection Luthern Church Pastor Scott Meier as everyone joined hands, including towering deputies and small children. Then several men expressed their own prayers out loud as Kaszubowski bowed his head.
"He has to be at the hospital at 5:45 a.m. and the surgery is scheduled for 7:45 a.m.," his wife, Bobi Sue, said.
Although Kaszubowski was treated with radiation and chemotherapy for esophageal cancer as recently as last summer, spots appeared on his liver.
This morning, Dr. Atsushi Yoshida will remove the gall bladder to reach the tumorous area, Bobi Sue said. Then, if possible, he will insert a hot probe into the tumor to destroy the cells.
"He'll burn the heck out of it," she said.
However, if the tumor is too large, Yoshida will remove the lobe, she said.
Bobi Sue said her husband is nervous. At the age of two, he underwent surgery to repair a hernia and still retains images in his mind of that ordeal, she said.
To help prepare Kaszubowski and his family for the trip, firefighter Bill Mott came up with the prayer service idea and enlisted the help of Alpena Township Fire Capt. Jim Seguin.
"Any time you're dealing with cancer in your life, it's pretty hard to do it on your own," Seguin said. "If you have some support, it's healthier, and the spiritual support is very important - for the whole group. It helps us all."
Seguin said the group also is concerned about Bobi Sue.
"She has been all on her own and she's a tough girl. But it's very hard for her," Seguin said. "So we wanted her to know she's got our support, too."
Betsy Lehndorff can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5693. Follow Betsy on Twitter @bl_alpenanews.