HE fought to the very end, but Paul Barrow lost his battle with cancer surrounded by his loving family.
Today, the firefighter’s devastated parents paid tribute to the doting dad-of-two.
“He was so brave,” said mum Pauline, 61. “He didn’t let the cancer stop him and tried to carry on his life around it.
“Just three weeks ago he was out with the children even though he was in absolute agony.
“He was tough, really tough, and so courageous right until the very end.”
Paul, a crew member at Sunderland South Community Fire Station, said he did not want to spend his final days in hospital after the gruelling chemotherapy, radiotherapy and three operations failed to work.
Instead, the 38-year-old, who was dad to Jack, four, and Thomas, eight, moved in with parents Pauline and Billy who, along with his brother Darren, 32, cared for him until he died on Friday, October 14.
Pauline said: “I promised him I would look after him and it was his wish to die at home.
“I lay with him because I was too frightened to leave him.
“We had the two children here and they kissed our Paul and said their goodbyes. Then I held him in my arms and he passed away.”
Billy, 65, added: “The strength he showed was incredible and he was a very brave lad.”
The former Seaham Comprehensive pupil, from East Shore Village, started his working life when he joined the Navy at 17.
He served on HMS Juno before working in Yeovil as part of the aircraft maintenance team.
He left after five years and, after a short stint at Nissan, joined Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service.
Billy said: “He absolutely loved it in the fire service and they were like a second family to him.
“He loved the lifestyle and fitness regime that came with it because he’s always been into sport and was very active all the time.”
Paul’s colleagues have also paid tribute to him.
Chief Fire Officer Iain Bathgate said: “It was an honour to have Paul alongside us as a member of Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service.
“A firefighter’s role in life is simple. It is to help others in danger and distress and Paul performed these duties well and with pride throughout his all-too-brief career.
“I would like to express my deepest sympathies to Paul’s family for the tragic loss of such a fine young man. He will be missed.”
Station manager Joe Cummings added: “In his short career, Paul quickly established himself as a highly valued and respected member of each of the watches on which he served.
“In fairness, he was the model firefighter. He was a pleasure to have worked with and will be sadly missed by all of his colleagues.”
Paul also leaves behind his wife Phyllis.