Waiting in the doctor’s office on September 11th, 2012, I had two choices. Either to roll over and wait for death, or to stand with my fellow firefighters and make a change.
Working at Station 8 in Columbus, OH was my dream job. Every day I went to work and put myself out there in order to serve my community. After 6 years in the Division, I was diagnosed with stage IV melanoma cancer, the deadliest form of skin cancer, and began treatment two weeks later.
Frightened, I started to read all I could on the disease. I ran across an article on firefighters and cancer, and found it was directly linked to the work I loved. Questions began to flood my mind, causing me to dig deeper into the subject. The more I learned, it became evident that my life was to take on a greater purpose. I decided that my example should be the reason for change.
Shocked at the lack of awareness that even myself had no idea this was an issue I should be aware of, I began to train, and spread the word that this is preventable and avoidable. Which is why I write to you today. The more we know, the more men and women will be able to go home fire after fire.
Although I am deeply saddened that my wife and five children will have to go on, this is for them.
If you, a brother or sister, or a loved one in the fire service, has been diagnosed or has battled with cancer, your unique experience could help guide others to begin taking preventive measures to reduce exposure to carcinogens and hopefully improved the outlook for all that serve.
We invite you to share your experience and insights. We think your story matters and could help someone else who thinks dirty gear is "just part of the job."
Share your story below and help raise awareness to improve the health and safety in the fire service, and take the pledge today to do all you can for firefighter safety.