CANCER.... 

That single word will make anyone cringe with a jolt of fear. How is it that one single word can change the lives of so many otherwise healthy firefighters? 

Young guys. Fit and strong gals. Cross-fitters. Gym rats... No one seems exempt these days. 

When it hits home, when it hits someone in your firehouse family, it becomes real and no longer 'something that happens to someone else.'

Here comes fear - genuine fear. Hear comes a sense of helplessness. And then comes the brotherhood and the sisterhood, the sense of family that we always know is there, even when we bicker and disagree. Here comes hope!

I had the privilege of attending my first ever International Association of Women in the Fire Service (i-Women) conference last week. What an amazing, strong, genuine group of women firefighters, gathered from all over the globe. This was a sisterhood that I had not known to have existed before. You may be asking yourself why I mention this in a blog about firefighters and cancer? 

Let me tell you about an amazing firefighter, and cancer survivor. Donna Luce-MacDonald spoke to a crowd of women firefighters about her personal battle with bone cancer - something she's convinced that she developed on the job - and her courageous, and several, returns to full duty. Donna captured the audience with her story, one that each and every one of us could see with vivid detail, and personalize. Donna wasn't there to gain notoriety,  or obtain sympathy from the audience. Oh no, nothing could be further from the truth. Donna is a warrior, and stood tall and spoke very bluntly about this one, cringe-worthy word: CANCER. 

Her mission in delivering her story was a simple and heartfelt one: Firefighters are being diagnosed with cancer in record numbers. Firefighters need support and understanding from those who speak their language, those who know the job, and those who understand the brother and sisterhood. 

She introduced to the audience, many for a first time introduction, a support network designed holistically and specifically for FIREFIGHTERS diagnosed with cancer. The Firefighter Cancer Support Network (www.firefightercancersupport.org) provides a place to go to seek information, to connect with other firefighters battling cancer, to feel understood. The FCSN will even hook you up with a mentor - another firefighter who has survived the very same type of cancer that you have been diagnosed with. The network provides you with a toolbox - a place for resources, paperwork, schedulers, logs, and the like. This group is doing amazing work for the brotherhood and sisterhood, and it was so very refreshing to see such a positive spin on what could ordinarily be described as a just plain suck-ass situation. 

Know anyone who could use this sort of support? Maybe you could use it. Maybe a shift-mate could use it. Cancer usually makes people feel helpless. Don't feel helpless - reach out. 

Feel free to check out their website at www.firefightercancersupport.org

Take care of yourself and each other!

Irish Blessings!

Colleen