Nikiski firefighter Levi Doss reveals a smile while recovering from brain surgery in Anchorage in 2016. (Photo provided by Tera Doss)

Nikiski firefighter Levi Doss reveals a smile while recovering from brain surgery in Anchorage in 2016. (Photo provided by Tera Doss)

Community rallies around Nikiski firefighter Doss

Nikiski firefighter Levi Doss may still be battling cancer, but his family and friends have shown that he has already come out a winner.

An 11-year-veteran of the Nikiski Fire Department who was forced to medically retire earlier this year, Doss has received thousands of dollars in donations from a GoFundMe account set up by his fellow firefighters.

In the first week of the page’s existence, the effort reached a quarter of its $100,000 goal.

As of Saturday, 131 contributors have raised nearly $27,000 for the Doss family.

“I wouldn’t wish this tumor on anyone,” wrote Doss in an email. “But I am glad to have known it. It has made so many positive changes in our lives. Completely outweighs the negatives.”

Jessica Smith and Harrison Deveer, two of the key organizers of the fundraising effort and GoFundMe page who have known Doss for about a decade, said the drive to help the family stems from the compassion and generosity the family has shared with the community for years. Tera Doss said fire chief James Baisden also played a big role in the fundraising effort.

Deveer described the family as very humble people who deserve the help.

“Levi is one of those guys that’s unique and you just kind of fall in love with,” he said. “He’s one of the most amazing people I’ve worked with. He’s had a huge impact on this place on people.”

“He was a huge part of why I fell in love with the department,” Smith added. “He’s just an amazing person who would do anything for anybody.”

Smith said she wants to run the fundraising effort as long as people are willing to support the family. She said any interested party wishing to help can donate at any Wells Fargo location by contributing to the Levi Doss donation fund. Smith said the station is also looking at hosting a fundraising event this winter, possibly in December, which would include a dinner and an auction.

A captain and paramedic with the NFD, Dos is currently receiving treatment in Tijuana, Mexico, and has previously received radiation and chemotherapy in Seattle, Washington, to help wipe out the cancer.

Doss wrote that during this difficult journey, he has been buoyed by two things — the community support and his faith in God.

“Along with having an incredibly strong wife and seven wonderful kids, I am surrounded by love,” Doss wrote. “My church family at Kenai New Life Assembly has been incredible. My work family has also been incredible. They put together a retirement party for me (during) which I cried for at least half of it. Tears of joy.”

Diagnosis

It was Aug. 23, 2016, when Doss suffered his first seizure. Levi and Tera had a four-day family trip planned across Kachemak Bay near Homer.

Doss awoke feeling excited yet peaceful. Doss said normally he would be tied up in the logistics of the trip — getting the kids ready, organizing the cars, loading up the boat — but he had an odd sense of serenity about him, a peaceful feeling.

The drive down to Homer was punctuated by a lost wheel bearing on his truck as he was nearing the seaside town. Doss said he made the decision to stop by the hardware store for the necessary tools to replace it before meeting with his wife, who was waiting at the harbor with the rest of the family, but later described it as an odd decision. The family was waiting for him and he already owned the tools for the job in his boat.

“I remember being confused while looking at the bearing and calling my friend and mechanic at NFD,” Doss wrote. “Even though I have changed several in my life, I couldn’t figure it out.

“The next thing I knew, I was in the back of (an) HFD ambulance and them telling me that I had a seizure. I was even more confused.”

The episode effectively cancelled the trip while friends and coworkers of Doss met Tera and the kids in Homer to shuttle the cars and family members back up to Kenai. Doss himself was taken to South Peninsula Hospital in Homer where a CT scan revealed a mass in his brain.

“We didn’t see it coming,” Tera said. “He’d had headaches all his life, but didn’t know why, so there wasn’t anything too weird.”

Doss was quickly transported to Anchorage, where an MRI confirmed a brain tumor. It was there that Doss received surgery to remove the tumor, a procedure that also led to the temporary loss of feeling in his right arm.

“I woke up and squeezed my right hand and praised God,” Doss wrote. “They told me I was good to go and could get on with life.”

A year went by with minimal problems. Doss returned to light duty work and it seemed the problem went away.

Christmas Eve 2017 brought with it a return episode. The Doss’s were packing into the family suburban for a Christmas Eve church service, and minutes before leaving, Doss began feeling symptoms creep up on him swiftly.

As the seizure it set in on him, Doss worked quickly to prevent his children from being frightened by what they were about to see.

“I remember it starting and tried to apologize to my children,” Doss wrote.

He relapsed into what is known as a grand mal seizure, as his body lost all control and consciousness.

“I felt pretty bad that my kids had to see it,” he said.

Tera stayed by her husband’s side while family members showed up to aid her and take care of the kids. Tera said that while she was very much concerned with what was happening, the situation never became chaotic or disorderly, and she sprung into action as quick as she could.

“I think I’ve been blessed with the gift of calmness,” she said. “I think the worse moments of your life make your blood run cold, but at the same time we were able to function.”

The Christmas Eve seizure ultimately led to the bigger diagnosis of brain cancer, which hit home the hardest. Doss was forced to take on light duty operation at work, then had to make the decision to medically retire for good.

Treatment

Levi said his grandfather also suffered brain cancer late in his life and passed away on Levi’s 11th birthday. Levi said his grandpa had a nearly identical scar on his head as Levi’s, and died just one year after his first seizure.

Doss said he recently emailed his grandmother about her late husband’s cancer, and she said that once it was made clear that radiation was the only solution following surgery, the family could only pray for Levi’s grandfather.

“She said, ‘The (doctor) said they would talk “cure” in radiation, but don’t believe them because the type of cancer he has, more would appear and they would NOT be able to do any more surgery’,” Doss wrote. “‘We KNEW that God was the only source of cure. So we put it ALL in God’s hands for His will to be done’.”

Doss continued receiving treatments in the Kenai community, but began to seek greater help outside Alaska. The Doss’s took a trip to Seattle last May so Levi could look at starting radiation therapy, but when the doctor informed them that the cancer had not spread further in the previous three months, Levi had the option of wait and see.

Two weeks ago, Doss said his doctor confirmed again that the tumor had not grown or spread.

Now, Doss is staying in Mexico for three weeks seeking alternative treatment.

At age 38, Doss said he and his wife — both lifelong Nikiski residents — are working to getting back to normal in a life changed by cancer, and the community support has left them grateful, even after both Levi and Tera pleaded with their friends to not go to the extra lengths of fundraising.

“It’s been ridiculous, it’s amazing,” Tera said. “None of us knew about the GoFundMe until the day after they did it, and finally they decided they’d do it anyways.

“We were very humbled and blown away, and so thankful and so grateful for the amazing fire department and the community, and our church family has been incredible.”

Nikiski firefighters Levi Doss (left) and Harrison Deveer hold up an award presented to Doss for service and dedication in an undated photo. Doss medically retired from the Nikiski Fire Department after he was diagnosed with brain cancer. (Photo provided by Tera Doss)

Nikiski firefighters Levi Doss (left) and Harrison Deveer hold up an award presented to Doss for service and dedication in an undated photo. Doss medically retired from the Nikiski Fire Department after he was diagnosed with brain cancer. (Photo provided by Tera Doss)

Levi Doss (middle) stands with his Nikiski Fire Department co-workers (from left to right) Ty Smith, Jhenry Kane, Jessica Smith and Barry Wheeler in 2017. (Photo provided by Levi Doss)

Levi Doss (middle) stands with his Nikiski Fire Department co-workers (from left to right) Ty Smith, Jhenry Kane, Jessica Smith and Barry Wheeler in 2017. (Photo provided by Levi Doss)

More in News

Sen. Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer; Senate President Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna; Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak and Sen. Click Bishop, R-Fairbanks, spoke to reporters Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022, immediately following Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s State of the State address. Members of the Senate Republican leadership said they appreciated the governor’s optimism, and hoped it signaled a better relationship between the administration and the Legislature. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Lawmakers welcome tone change in governor’s address

With caveats on financials, legislators optimistic about working together

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
COVID deaths, hospitalizations climb statewide

The total number of statewide COVID deaths is nearly equivalent to the population of Funny River.

A fisher holds a reel on the Kenai River near Soldotna on June 30, 2021. (Photo by Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Restrictions on sport fishing announced

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced summer sport fishing regulations Wednesday

Community agencies administer social services to those in need during the Project Homeless Connect event Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna on Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
‘It’s nice to be able to help folks’

Project Homeless Connect offers services, supplies to those experiencing housing instability

Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce attends the March 2, 2021, borough assembly meeting at the Betty J. Glick Assembly Chambers at the Borough Administration Building in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Former talk-show host to manage Pierce gubernatorial campaign

Jake Thompson is a former host of KSRM’s Tall, Dark and Handsome Show and Sound-off talk-show

Deborah Moody, an administrative clerk at the Alaska Division of Elections office in Anchorage, Alaska, looks at an oversized booklet explaining election changes in the state on Jan. 21, 2022. Alaska elections will be held for the first time this year under a voter-backed system that scraps party primaries and sends the top four vote-getters regardless of party to the general election, where ranked choice voting will be used to determine a winner. No other state conducts its elections with that same combination. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)
How Alaska’s new ranked choice election system works

The Alaska Supreme Court last week upheld the system, narrowly approved by voters in 2020.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks to a joint meeting of the Alaska State Legislature at the Alaska State Capitol on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022, for his fourth State of the State address of his administration. Dunleavy painted a positive picture for the state despite the challenges Alaska has faced during the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the economy. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Gov points ‘North to the Future’

Dunleavy paints optimistic picture in State of the State address

A COVID-19 test administrator discusses the testing process with a patient during the pop-up rapid testing clinic at Homer Public Health Center on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
Free rapid COVID-19 testing available in Homer through Friday

A drive-up COVID-19 testing clinic will be held at Homer Public Health Center this week.

In this Sept. 21, 2017, file photo, former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin speaks at a rally in Montgomery, Ala. Palin is on the verge of making new headlines in a legal battle with The New York Times. A defamation lawsuit against the Times, brought by the brash former Alaska governor in 2017, is set to go to trial starting Monday, Jan. 24, 2022 in federal court in Manhattan. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)
Palin COVID-19 tests delay libel trial against NY Times

Palin claims the Times damaged her reputation with an opinion piece penned by its editorial board

Most Read