By Dr. Bill Jenaway, Ph.D. Vice President VFIS Education, Training & Consulting
Cancer is the leading cause of line of duty deaths for America’s firefighters. The Firefighter Cancer Support Network (FCSN) is there to help firefighters and their families cope with cancer. Since 2005, this non-profit organization has provided assistance and one-on-one mentoring to thousands of cancer-stricken firefighters and their families. FCSN also delivers extensive firefighter cancer awareness and prevention training nationwide.
Established by Los Angeles County Firefighter Paramedic Michael Dubron, a survivor of stage IV colon cancer, the FCSN has developed into an effective support agency. It is backed with the support from the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF), the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC), Firefighter Close Calls (FFCC) and the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF). The organization’s goal is to support firefighters and their families following a cancer diagnosis and is a founding member of the Fire Service Occupational Cancer Alliance.
Firefighter cancer is still a statistically elusive benchmark. It is estimated that cancer caused about 60 percent of the deaths of career firefighters between 2002 and 2014 (IAFF data). However, the United States Fire Administration firefighter fatality statistics do not include cancer related deaths, even though it is reality that firefighting increases cancer risks significantly for every firefighter.
The value of FCSN is in their understanding of the impact of a cancer diagnosis on a person and how the patient, family and fellow firefighters deal with the diagnosis, treatment and outcome. The FCSN has several initiatives that provide assistance:
- Cancer support tool box
This contains tested, proven resources to help firefighters and their families cope with the cancer diagnosis, treatment and recovery phases.
- Badge-to-badge support
These are volunteer peer-support mentors (nearly all are firefighters and paramedics who have survived cancer themselves) as well as mentors for spouses and children.
- Awareness and prevention
These are extensive occupational cancer awareness and prevention training programs delivered to fire and EMS personnel across the U.S., at both conferences and in the stations.
- Train-the-trainer programs
These are funded by FEMA and designed to train others with the same content FCSN has to get the message into the field.
- Research and development
This involves active participation in cancer-related engineering and medical research. Two whitepapers have been developed to provide information, based on the research and development, to fire and EMS personnel.
To help you with firefighter cancer-related issues, contact FCSN at 866.994.3276 or go online at firefightercancersupport.org/request-assistance/
This information is reprinted with permission from the Firefighter Cancer Support Network article
What is the FCSN?
The objective of the Firefighter Cancer Support Network (FCSN) is to provide timely assistance to all fire service members and their families in the event of cancer diagnosis. The organization maintains and continuously updates a roster of mentors who have personal experience with many types of cancers. These individuals will personally guide you through the process of dealing with your specific illness.
In addition to the mentor program, FCSN always looks for volunteers to assist on various committees, specialized task programs, member support activities and specialized events.
The FCSN provides awareness to fire service members and their families about the importance of early detection and screening by coordinating educational opportunities with various health programs. It provides assistance and guidance for other support options such as behavioral health services, fire service organizations, fire service chaplains and other cancer support programs.
The FCSN collaborates with the American Cancer Society and the Live Strong Foundation. It is the organization’s mission to provide comfort, strength and hope through personal experiences in dealing with the devastating effects of cancer and promote an awareness that cancer does not have to be dealt with alone.