VISTA, Calif. – The Vista Fire Department and surrounding community are rallying around one of their own after a sudden cancer diagnosis.
“He’s always got jokes,” friend and fellow firefighter Patrick McDonald said. “He has incredible wit. He’s always going out looking for his fellow brother or sister — not just at Vista Fire Department. Everyone knows Andy Valenta.”
Those close to Valenta, an 11-year veteran of the department, say he has been feeling ill for several weeks. Last Friday left him grappling with a serious diagnosis.
“Lungs and stomach — his brain now as well — it’s pretty much, in his words, in his entire body at this point,” McDonald said. “Unfortunately, late stage cancer and found very late as well.”
Valenta, 33, landed in the ICU Monday after experiencing a stroke. McDonald called it “a tragedy.”
“He’s actually our fourth brother that’s had a cancer diagnosis in less than two years just in our department,” he said.
On Monday, McDonald launched a GoFundMe campaign to help Valenta and his family with medical and other expenses. In 24 hours, the fund skyrocketed past its goal of $40,000, which McDonald noted is a testament to how many people love and support Valenta.
The department also plans to hold a drive-by birthday celebration Wednesday for one of Valenta’s daughters.
“The outflowing of support that we’ve gotten so far from brothers and sisters around the fire community in San Diego and members of the general public as well is amazing,” McDonald said.