APPLETON, Wis. (WFRV) – Early screening for cancer can save lives.

That’s why the Appleton Police and Fire Department held cancer screenings for several of its first responders in their department on Monday afternoon. All the first responders receiving the screening are veterans.

According to research from the Hunter Seven Foundation, over 90% of veterans reported exposure to toxic materials while deployed.

Early screening for veterans hits particularly close to home for Appleton first responders.

Last September, Appleton Police Department inspector Dominic Hall passed away from pancreatic cancer after a fierce battle.

He had served in the military and was deployed to the Middle East and Japan, where he encountered toxic materials, including some from nuclear reactors, which caused cancer.

One of his dying wishes was to make sure that no other veteran had to go through what he did and die this way.

“I think he would stand up here and say I’m very proud of all of you (for taking part in the cancer screenings) and say God bless all of you,” said his wife Jacole Hall. “(Him passing away) made us realize that life is very short and you have to do the things that are on your heart and go for the things that you always wanted to go for as well.”

An Appleton firefighter and veteran is also battling cancer. Doctors diagnosed Keegan Murphy with stage four lung cancer in October. He’s courageously battled the diseases since and said his friend Dominic Hall provided him with inspiration.

“Dom’s death (and the way he fought cancer) has given me strength, hope, and purpose, and that is why we are here today,” said Murphy.

The Appleton police department, fire department, and Hunter Seven Foundation teamed up to provide early cancer detection screenings. Hunter Seven Foundation focuses on helping veterans who’ve been exposed to toxic chemicals while serving our country.

They provide cancer screening tests for free for veterans across the country. Early detection dramatically reduces the likelihood of somebody dying from cancer. Death rates go down by 70 percent when breast cancer is caught in stage one versus stage four, over 75 percent for colon cancer, 69 percent for melanoma, 74 percent in cervical cancer, 68 percent for prostate cancer, 22 percent in testicular cancer, 42 percent in tongue cancer, and 60 percent in lip cancer.

The tests screen for around 50 different types of cancer.

The founder of Hunter Seven Foundation, Chelsey Simoni, said meeting Dominic Hall changed her life because of his kindness and how he genuinely wanted to continue to give back even as he was dying from cancer.

She said many people she works with are bitter that they contracted cancer and want to file lawsuits, but Dominic Hall didn’t want anything to do with that. He was kind and positive until the very end.

Simoni traveled from the East Coast to help administer the cancer screening tests to Appleton first responders.

On Monday afternoon, 13 members of the Appleton fire and police departments received their screening tests. In total, 45 first responders will eventually get these tests.

“Something like this is a huge opportunity to give their families some peace of mind and maybe catch an illness that could be deadly early, so they have a better shot of beating it,” said Appleton Police Department lieutenant Ryan Guilette who received a screening on Monday afternoon.

Guilette served in the Middle East from 2003 until 2008.

Jacole Hall started her own nonprofit called Vaspire 316 to raise money for families with veterans who are battling cancer. Information on the nonprofit can be found here.

“Every dollar that is donated, I feel like it’s like bringing Dom’s life back and creating his legacy so it leads on, and that is very important,” said Jacole Hall.

“If this happened two years ago (cancer screenings like this were available) I think my family’s story might have been different,” she concluded.