Scott Stairclimb Profile: Whatcom, WA, Firefighter Tiffany Moyes

March 9, 2017
Whatcom County firefighter Tiffany Moyes was diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at the age of 19 and will take part in this weekend's stair climb.

Firehouse is sharing profiles of firefighters who have been diagnosed with Leukemia or Lymphoma and who are part of the upcoming Scott Firefighter Stairclimb in Seattle, March 12. Firehouse will provide a live stream of the day-long fundraiser on and on our Facebook page beginning at 10:30 a.m. ET.

Tiffany Moyes is a hands-on kind of girl. She’s never been satisfied with the idea of sitting behind a desk for eight hours a day, typing her life away in the corporate world. Instead, she chose to follow in her father’s, grandfather’s, and great-grandfather’s footsteps, and opted to make a career out of fighting fires instead. 

It’s obvious that her love for this profession and everything that comes with it has become a crucial part of who she is. When she was 16, she joined her local fire cadet program, and an instantaneous passion was born.

As a female in the fire service, she says that it has been hard work without a doubt. She’s had to prove herself capable and earn the trust of others, but now that she has it, she’s just one of the guys.

“I’ve always wanted a big brother growing up,” Tiffany said, “And now I have too many to count.”

This feeling of acceptance and family she’s discovered at Whatcom County, WA, Fire District 7 is mutual. Long time firefighter David Forbes, Tiffany’s C-shift lieutenant, says that despite the fact Tiffany was born 10 days after he was hired on at the fire station, she’s as tough as any man he’s worked with.

“I can’t begin to tell you how proud of her we are,” he said.

Not only is she now a resident firefighter with Whatcom County Fire, but she is also about to earn her associate's degree from Whatcom Community College in the spring. It’s hard to imagine that her busy lifestyle could accommodate much else, but on May 11, 2016, Tiffany was diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the age of 19. It was Tiffany’s mother who first broke the news.

Earlier that fall, Tiffany had finally made the move out of her parent’s house into living full-time at the fire station. It was there that she experienced a newfound sense of community, adulthood, and freedom, all of which felt like the universe was suddenly about to revoke. While she didn’t have to entirely move out of the firehouse she had come to love so dearly, Tiffany did have to spend a significant amount of time receiving and recovering from treatments away from the station.

“I didn’t cry when I got the cancer diagnosis, but I did cry when I had to go back home,” she said.

Tiffany soon began chemotherapy, which was administered through a port placed in her chest. Every other week she sat through sessions lasting about four to five hours each, always wishing she could instead be back doing what she loved. Admittedly, it was rough suddenly having restrictions on what she was able to do. Time with extended family and friends became limited, as everything was dependent upon her treatment schedule and daily blood cell count.

But after six months of body scans, blood draws, chemicals pumping straight into her heart, and shaving her head rather than watch clumps of hair fall out over time, Tiffany received her final chemo treatment this past November.

Throughout this experience, Tiffany remains a humble person. She makes a point to emphasize how those in her life profoundly and positively affected her, rather than adopting a woe-is-me attitude. She speaks enthusiastically of the incredible outpouring of kindness from friends, family, and even people who she hadn’t spoken to in years. Whether it was a homemade meal brought to her house after another round of chemo or a random text asking how she was doing that day, the way people stepped up and put themselves out there to show support did not go unappreciated.

But what stood out most of all was how her fellow Whatcom firefighters never once changed the way they treated her.

“In their eyes I was just a person rather than someone with cancer,” Tiffany said. “That was my biggest thing during treatment…that I was still Tiffany, you know? I’m still me and I don’t want to be identified by my cancer.”

Gareth Moore, another member of Whatcom Fire, finds her undamaged spirit absolutely inspirational. During a shift when they both got called to put out a barn fire, and as Gareth watched Tiffany work relentlessly to do her part, it became clear to him that she is an unstoppable individual. As they worked through the night it dawned on him that every time he asked her how she was doing and she told him, “I’m ok,” she truly meant it. She wasn’t going to let her circumstances define her, and was never going to give up.

“She had such conviction and such drive that I didn’t doubt for a second that she would be ok,” Gareth said.

Her diagnosis has reinforced the notion that the little things in life are meant to be cherished. She fondly details how at the firehouse there are three separate shifts that rotate out every month. What she loves the most about her permanent residency there is how she gets to spend time with everyone across these shifts and get to know their little quirks. From the guys who constantly complain about how there’s nothing to watch on TV late at night, to those who religiously watch "Ghost Hunters" (which terrifies her) during the last shift, it’s these little details she says she will now always remember to savor and is sure some day she will miss.

“When you’re slowly losing your identity to cancer, it's those little things that are what you’re going to hold onto the tightest to try and keep some of who you are,” she said.

Tiffany’s positive spirit is infectious, her drive for both work and life is admirable, and in layman’s terms, she’s simply a badass. She doesn’t let this diagnosis define who she is, but rather, uses it as an opportunity to gain new perspective on what it means to really live.

Tiffany will be taking part in this weekend's stairclimb.

EMILY MUIRHEAD is a campaign assistant with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society—Washington/Alaska Chapter and part of the Scott Safety Stair Climb Challenge.

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