CANCER WARRIORS AND RESOURCES
"Dear Secret Santa, My family is so grateful for all of your kindness and generosity during Christmas. Your gifts to us deeply touched our hearts. Thank you all for everything!!
- The O'Neill Family
"I kept thinking about my daughter. I'm a single dad. My daughter is everything to me. Thank you FirefighterAid for all your help and caring support."
- RC Ortanez
KYLE O'NEILL'S STORY:
Kyle O'Neill is a father, husband, brother, son, hero, and Firefighter who has been battling cancer. He has a dedicated, hard-working wife and two amazing little girls. The lack of strength that comes with going through many cancer treatments hit Kyle during the holidays. FirefighterAid and our amazing group of volunteers were able to be there for Kyle and his family.
Our CAPP program Manager was able to create a Meal Train that organized over 30 volunteers to bring Kyle and his family lunches and dinner for an entire month. He also organized a yard clean up crew that was able to help Kyle get his yard all set for winter. Our good friends over at The Holiday Lighters hung the lights on Kyle's home so his family could still enjoy the loving lights of the holidays.
A group of very special do-gooders at Alliant Speciality Insurance Services decided that they wanted to help a fire family who was struggling. They held bake sales, sold hot chocolate around their building, and made a nacho bar all to raise money to help us. And that they did! $2,300 in total plus Padres tickets for the family. Kyle's daughters awoke on Christmas morning to a new kitchen and stove set complete with two shopping carts and food to play with.
From the bottom of our hearts, we thank every volunteer who came together with us to help this family and many others during the holidays.
RC ORTANEZ'S STORY:
Arsenio "RC" Ortanez had been with the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department for 20 years, spending that time fighting some of the city's most devastating fires, including spending time on the frontlines of the Cedar Fire.
All San Diego Firefighters are required to undergo regular wellness checks to ensure their health is in order. It was during one of those checks in 2007 where RC found out he had cancer. RC was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia, a type of cancer that affects white blood cells. RC was on several medications for treating his cancer, but recently his body stopped responding to it. He needed a bone marrow transplant.
RC is Filipino. Bone marrow is often matched by ethnicity, and according to the National Marrow Donor Program, only 7 percent of donors are Asian. While RC hoped to find a match, his Firefighter mentality of helping others shines through knowing those who donate may save someone else.
Over 500 donors showed up to the blood drive co-hosted with Be The Match at the SDFRA Office in Mission Valley. Eventually, a match was found and RC got his bone marrow transplant.
RC got a second chance at life and is healthy today, he continues to work in Fire Prevention.
RC PRESS LINKS:
2/14/2012 - Bone marrow drive for San Diego firefighter
2/15/2012 - Local Firefighter In Need Of Bone Marrow Transplant
2/16/2012 - Bone Marrow Drive Held For Local Firefighter
2/17/2012 - Potential Bone Marrow Donor Found for Firefighter
2/19/2012 - Firefighter Needs Bone Marrow Transplant
3/5/2012 - Possible bone marrow match for firefighter
CAPP GOES TO PETALUMA, CA:
July of 2019, some of our team traveled north to Petaluma, CA, just outside of San Francisco. Our knowledgable team delivered our CAPP class to the entire Petaluma Fire Department and some of their surrounding departments. Our CAPP program is supported by the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department (SDFD), Local 145, San Diego Fireman's Relief Association and the Firefighter Cancer Support Network.
CAPP was founded in 2016 with the sole purpose to reinforce best practices of Firefighters in the workplace specializing in Clean Air, Clean Body, and Clean Gear. The program includes a cancer training class with a video about warnings of current practices, behavioral and cultural changes to prevent cancer, and posters of peers strategically placed throughout every Fire Station and Apparatus. Most importantly, CAPP is on a mission to break down stereotypes of what it means to be a Firefighter and how to protect themselves every day from the elevated threat of cancer.
We shared our research and best practices with our extended fire family. They were very receptive and excited to share their knowledge with the rest of their brothers and sisters after the class. We are so grateful that we could share tips on how to reduce risks of cancer with other stations. Thank you to Petaluma Fire Department for graciously welcoming us and caring about your firefighters so deeply!
You don't have to know everything, but you should know yourself and your body pretty well. So if something seems off, you should head to your health care provider and talk to them about it as soon as possible. Listen to your friends, coworkers, and family - they know you pretty well too. While we don't want anything to ever happen to you, we do want you to be healthy and well taken care of. Being a firefighter or the family of a firefighter can be difficult, and there are many health hazards that can come with the job. That being said, even if you are curious, you should be screened for cancer. Early detection can make a world of difference for many cancer warriors.
It can be very scary, and we understand that. However, you are NEVER alone. We are here for you; your brothers and sisters in the fire service are here for you; and you family is here for you. Please be sure to get regular screenings, wipe down and shower after responding to a fire, wash your turnouts, and wear your breather to help reduce your risks. Additionally, keep yourself educated.
Check out some of these resources below to be sure you know warning signs, possible carcinogen origins, and more. If you have questions, please talk to your health care provider as soon as possible. We are all here with you through this journey.
CANCER PREVENTION RESOURCES: