The year 2011 marked the tenth anniversary of 9/11. I think everyone remembers where they were when the news reached them about the planes striking the World Trade Center that terrible morning. I was at my desk working when a co-worker’s wife called to tell us about what was going on in New York City. Now you may wonder what does this have to do with prostate cancer?
I strongly believe hatred is a form of cancer. And what happened to all those innocent people in Pennsylvania, at the Pentagon, and in New York City that day was cancer at its worst. One definition of cancer is “a malignant evil that corrodes slowly and fatally”. In my opinion, these acts of terrorism meet this definition.
Since 1996, I have been a seasonal wildland firefighter for State of Connecticut and therefore feel a certain kinship with all fire personnel. All Americans felt many emotions that terrible day. Anger, loss, shock, helplessness, and emptiness are just a few of the words that come to mind as I write this post. I can honestly say that those same feelings hit me in 2007 when I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. I was lucky that my support system was so strong.
When faced with hatred, it’s instinctive to protect oneself and to seek out and wreak havoc on that evil. It’s more difficult to do so when you are up against a faceless foe though. That’s why I felt it was so important to reach out and help others. By doing so, I was, in a sense, wreaking havoc on cancer by sharing my experiences openly and helping others cope with this disease. And I honestly feel that these acts helped me just as much, if not more so. Whether it was encouraging a co-worker to get a PSA test, or talking to people with prostate cancer, trying to figure things out, it just felt right for me and it didn’t matter how much time had passed since my diagnosis and treatment.
My June, 2011 appointment with my doctor went well. My PSA result hadn’t changed and my physical exam didn’t turn up any surprises. Around that same time, I was preparing for the next wildland fire season. It didn’t look like I would be going to any fires because the fire activity in 2011 was way down. However, things picked up a bit in early fall and I ended up in Minnesota in mid-September with my fire crew to help with the Pagami Creek Fire in and around the Boundary Waters. This was a very unusual fire in that we had to canoe our way to the fire and spike out for about a week. Our supplies were flown in by plane and we had to cook, clean and keep warm, all while attending to our fire duties. Now most fires have camps that are set up by caterers and contractors to support these fire assignments, but this location was way too remote. It took us almost an entire day just to get to the place where we set up camp.
We accomplished what we set out to do at the fire and I was able to share some of my experiences with cancer with some of my fire crew. I hope that my time in the woods of Minnesota helped to not only extinguish fires, but shed light on cancer treatment and early diagnosis.