Firefighter cancer: An inconvenient truth

We say we'll do anything to prevent cancer, but that's not true; look at how often we don't wear SCBA and other protective gear


Jeffery Lindsey's lost his wife, Kandace, to breast cancer in 2011.

How often has someone said I will do anything not to get cancer? Or, you can put anything in place of "cancer."

Regardless, these are easy words to say but difficult actions to carry out. I remember when my wife was fighting cancer. I said if I would get cancer I would do …. 

I work in the alternative health care field and often hear people say they would do anything to get rid of a condition.

Yet when the rubber meets the road and reality sets in, they won't do anything. It has suit their lifestyle or needs or whatever they want to do. People don't want to give up certain things. They often say they will do anything except give up (fill in the blank).

Occasionally, I receive emails from readers commenting on my columns. I found one comment especially interesting.

Accepted risk
The individual writes that he believes it is an accepted risk that firefighters get cancer. He continues to write how FDNY is not going to clean their gear after every incident. Respiratory protection is not worn when it should be.

Quite frankly I can't argue with these points. They are reality, not necessarily acceptable practices, but they seem to be the way things are done.

So why do we continue to be sadden every time a firefighter is diagnosed with cancer? Why do we continue to want to put legislation forward on presumptive measures that because we are firefighters it is a job hazard?

Maybe we first need to clean our own closet and do anything it takes to prevent the cancer in the first place. When presumptive legislation is put on the table, how can lawmakers pass legislation when they see firefighters sitting outside their window puffing on a cigarette or not wearing protective gear to prevent them from inhaling the toxic fumes?

Are you getting defensive yet? If so, maybe this has hit a nerve. I certainly hope so.

No more excuses
We need to stop delaying and making excuses. We need to stop turning our heads and making the inexcusable practices acceptable. Enough is enough. Let's quit saying if I would get cancer I would change. Let's quit saying that you would do anything to prevent cancer except ….

Let's take a realistic look at what we can do to prevent this horrible disease. Granted, there are circumstances where we can do everything we have available to prevent cancer yet still contract it.

If we have failed in prevention, then we need to look at how to treat it. How can so many people successful treat their cancer and live many years when others succumb to the cancer after weeks, months or a few years?

The next several columns will look at what we know causes cancer in firefighters and what can be done to prevent it. I have no intentions of sugar coating anything — by the way, cancer thrives on sugar and it has no business in anything we talk about other than getting it out of our diets.

We need to quit being politically correct and address this fast-growing killer before you become the next victim.

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