Jon McAlpin is the first guy you want to see at the last place you want to be.
The 60-year-old retired firefighter plays an important role at the Methodist Hospital Estabrook Cancer Center in Omaha, Nebraska: he greets cancer patients and their families as they undergo chemotherapy.
“His attitude, it just lifts me up,” one patient told CBS Evening News.
“Makes you feel warm and good,” echoed another.
But McAlpin has a secret.
Despite his overwhelmingly positive attitude, the 60-year-old hospital greeter is struggling with his own battle with cancer. McAlpin was diagnosed with a rare form of intestinal cancer a few years ago that he says will eventually kill him.
In fact, at one point he tried to take his own life. He thought, “Why wait?”
“I was pretty despondent, I really was,” McAlpin told CBS Evening News. “And that was the night I planned my suicide.”
He had it all planned out, until one day his doctor convinced him that he can still find purpose in his remaining days. And find purpose he did.
The retired firefighter now greets cancer patients at the front door, inspiring them to continue fighting their battles with cancer. According to the CBS Evening News, he never misses a day — even when he is on chemo.
“They’ve given me a purpose in life beyond anything I’ve ever known,” McAlpin said. “I’m not a cancer victim anymore. And that’s how I choose to live out the remainder of my days — helping other people. I’m able to tell them, ‘You can do this. Look at me, you can do this.'”
Follow Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) on Twitter