Just Stick It!

While I am working on very serious FIRE close calls for upcoming columns, I have to beg your understanding as I also beg you to read this month's column, even though it is not about a fire, a crash or a rescue gone wrong. But this is all about saving a...

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While many situations involving cancer may not be preventable, many are -- from wearing full personal protective equipment (PPE), never allowing any of that soot to get on you (absorption of carcinogens through your skin as well as through dirty hoods) and not breathing that junk to getting checked out. The "getting checked out part" is often the toughest for the reasons I mention on why we don't go.

If you are 50 or over, talk to your doctor and schedule your colonoscopy -- then actually go to the appointment. Colorectal cancer is one of several cancers associated with us as firefighters on varying levels of increased risk. More than 90% of people diagnosed with colon cancer are 50 or older. Research indicates that by age 50, one in four of us has polyps (colon cancer precursors), so getting screened is an excellent way to prevent colon cancer.

Why should you schedule and go for your colonoscopy? Look at the pictures on your desk, in your helmet, in your locker and in your wallet. Or, listen to the words of a firefighter who was not as luck as me.

The following comments are from Los Angeles County Firefighter-Paramedic Mike Dubron, a colorectal cancer survivor:

Still not sure? Approximately 145,000 Americans will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer and 54,000 will die from this disease each year. Colorectal cancer is the most curable of all cancers -- if detected early. Chief Goldfeder gave himself that chance and if a cancerous polyp had been found, he could have avoided the tragedy that my family and I faced.

I was 39 years old when I was diagnosed with stage-four colorectal cancer and given one to three years. Though I was extremely young for this, the bottom line is I had to pre-arrange my life to include possible end-of-life issues. I struggled with the thoughts of my two young daughters no longer having their father.

Fortunately for my family and me, I am now five years cancer free. It is now my passion to give back to the fire service and help educate you about what you will now see as one of the hottest topics in the fire service and country: cancer.

Reduce unnecessary exposures, take care of your personal protective equipment, participate in annual wellness exams and ask questions. Be honest about your family's history of cancer. For instance, my being diagnosed at age 39 means that my children will need to be aggressively checked for the disease beginning at age 29.

Do you have a family history of cancer? If so, chances are there are procedures that may need to be performed. If you do get cancer, early detection leads to cure and continued memories that could be missed because you didn't want to take a day out of your schedule.

Please become a member of the Firefighter Cancer Support Network (FCSN). The ability to reach out and educate or assist a fellow firefighter with the help that I once needed will be the most rewarding thing you will ever do.

I encourage all of you who are reading this column and are moved enough to actually act share your story on our website's guestbook. In fact, I dare you!

A final word from Chief Goldfeder:

In an attempt to get each of you to get checked, or to help those of you who know someone who should get checked, as a free public service here is a one-minute, 33-second video that will help you understand how easy the procedure is. Go ahead, watch it. Don't be nervous:


Now Go Get Your Colonoscopy Scheduled!

Here are some related important links to further information:


WILLIAM GOLDFEDER, EFO, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a 33-year veteran of the fire service. He is a deputy chief with the Loveland-Symmes Fire Department in Ohio, an ISO Class 2 and CAAS-accredited department. Goldfeder has been a chief officer since 1982, has served on numerous IAFC and NFPA committees, and is a past commissioner with the Commission on Fire Accreditation International. He is a graduate of the Executive Fire Officer Program at the National Fire Academy and is an active writer, speaker and instructor on fire service operational issues. Goldfeder and Gordon Graham host the free and noncommercial firefighter safety and survival website www.FirefighterCloseCalls.com. Goldfeder may be contacted at BillyG@FirefighterCloseCalls.com.