We are inundated with information, articles and training on the hazards we face as firefighters every day in the performance of our job. Studies are indicating that cancer has overtaken cardiac/heart attacks as the leading cause of firefighter deaths. As a member of the fire service I was aware of this; however it never hit home with me until the day I received a phone call from my physician who informed me that I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Words cannot describe my feelings and emotions. How do I tell my wife and children, why me, am I going to die and when?
While speaking with a fellow firefighter after my diagnosis he mentioned an organization called the Firefighter Cancer Support Network. I did some research and made contact with them. It wasn’t long before I received a phone call from an FCSN Mentor; we had a great discussion that put me at ease. One week after my treatments concluded I was in a training session for their Cancer Awareness course.
As others in our profession, my passion and focus is to assist those in need. I joined the ranks of the Firefighter Cancer Support Network and became a District Representative where I made contact with local departments to ensure they were aware of the FCSN’s mission. I continued my involvement by becoming a Mentor and later filling the position of Assistant State Director under the guidance of State Director Joe Schumacher. Joe moved up the ranks within the FCSN and I was honored to be nominated and then accepted the position of State Director in Virginia.
I have had the opportunity to speak with many departments and fire associations to provide training, guidance and promote the mission of the Firefighter Cancer Support Network. My greatest honor is when I speak with a member that was diagnosed with cancer to provide guidance, assurance and understanding, as well as to be with them and their family during their battle.
I was one of the fortunate ones. My cancer diagnosis was detected early and after treatment returned to full duty. There are many that are not as fortunate as I was. Listen to those affected by this disease, learn from their experiences, and take heed from their message. If you or a fellow firefighter is diagnosed with cancer, please contact the Firefighter Cancer Support Network, our team is ready to assist.
Steve Weissman is a 46 year veteran of the fire service. He began his fire service profession in 1974 with the Merrick (NY) Volunteer Fire Department. His career continued with the Fairfax County (VA) Fire and Rescue Department retiring as a Captain and then working as a Battalion Chief for the Hanover (VA) Fire/EMS Department. He recently retired from the Stafford County (VA) Fire and Rescue Department as a Deputy Fire Chief.