The cancer
in the BFD.

Learn More

Embryo Creative’s short documentary on a Boston firefighter battling cancer generated social buzz, national press coverage, and shifted the culture of an organization. See how we used visual storytelling to engage an audience.


A cancer epidemic is ravaging fire services around the country, including the Boston Fire Department. Each year, there are more than 20 new diagnoses in the BFD. What’s more, aggressive cancers are increasingly affecting younger firefighters—men and women in their 30s and 40s.


Our previous work started a conversation in the fire department about this previously undiscussed epidemic. Building on that success, the department leadership wanted to further shift the culture and encourage fire fighters, especially younger members, to take the threat seriously and adopt new safety protocols.


Our challenge was, first, to earn audience trust, and second, convince viewers to embrace new changes to the BFD’s standard operating procedures.


One of the discoveries we've made in our work is that the more something feels authentic, and less like an overt “ask,s” the greater the social engagement (shares, likes, views, comments). That engagement helps drive action and prevents people from tuning out. We had an opportunity to document the struggle of a young firefighter, Glenn, as he underwent a stem cell and bone marrow transplant as a last ditch effort in his battle against stage 4 lymphoma.


The resulting short documentary is an unvarnished portrait of a man determined to “be home with his family at Christmas” and a wake-up call to fire fighters about the hidden dangers they face every time they enter the fireground.


Response to the video was phenomenal after it was posted to Facebook.


  • 220,000+ organic views, 2,000+ shares, and 750+ likes within 7 days of launch.
  • Press coverage of the cancer epidemic on NBC Nightly News and WHDH
  • A 60-minute special report on cancer in the BFD on Fox 25