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Monday, October 17, 2011

"PGFD CARES" Breast Cancer Awareness - Group Raises $10,000 in Donations

MEDIA CONTACT: Mark E. Brady, Chief Spokesperson, 240-508-7930

The Prince George’s County Fire/Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department (PGFD) has joined with others across the Country in raising the awareness of breast cancer. October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and we will help to highlight that one in eight women will develop breast cancer and every three minutes a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer. Breast cancer, not only effects women, but a percentage of men as well. Approximately 1,600 men will become breast cancer victims with about 400 diagnoses resulting in death. Though much research and strides have been made to cure the disease, much more research is needed to aid in the education and prevention to help save lives from this type of cancer.

This year the Fire/EMS Department will participate in the nationwide campaign for breast cancer awareness with members having the option of donning pink shirts starting on Sunday, October 16, 2011 through the end of the month. Prince George's County Fire Chief Marc S. Bashoor stated, "The color “pink” has become symbolic of breast cancer awareness. I am authorizing the change in work uniforms during this time to help with awareness efforts."

“Prince George’s County is united in our fight against breast cancer, which impacts so many of our neighbors, family members, and friends,” said County Executive Rushern L. Baker. “It is important that we take this time to increase awareness of the effect that this disease has on our community, as well as the importance of finding and beating cancer early while encouraging our residents to get proper screenings.”

A member of our Department has designed T-shirts that reflect our advocacy for breast cancer awareness. The shirts display a symbol of care and compassion for those affected while demonstrating a level of professionalism to be seen by a member of the community.

Chief Bashoor stated, "If not you, we all know someone who has been affected by breast cancer. This is an opportunity for us to show our support and I know that the men and women of this Department will do their part to support this worthy cause."

This initiative, “PGFD CARES,” was organized by a handful of Prince George’s County Firefighter/Medics to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer research.  The effort has exceeded all expectations and today is just the second day.  Organizers for PGFD CARES had set a goal of selling 200 shirts to other members of the Fire/EMS Department.  Fire Chief Marc S. Bashoor granted an exception to the uniform policy and starting October 16, 2011, Firefighter/Medics had the option of wearing the specially designed pink t-shirt in lieu of their regular work uniform shirt for the week.  The response to participate in the program was overwhelming with nearly 1200 T-shirts sold as of today.  The response has been so overwhelming that Chief Bashoor extended his uniform policy exception until the end of the month. 

The funds raised from the purchase of the PGFD Pink T-shirts have generated an amazing $10,000.  These funds will be donated to the Susan G. Komen Foundation.  A group of PGFD Firefighter/Medics will be participating in the Susan G. Walk for the Cure Walk on October 23, 2011. Fire Fighter/Medic Stephanie Buffum lost her mother to breast cancer, her mother was 38yrs old. This group will be walking for and honoring Anna C. Chafin; Buffum's mother.  The PGFD CARES TEAM will wear the PINK PGFD T’s during the walk.  Anyone interested is welcome to join the PGFD CARES Team.  

Fire Fighter/Medic Stephanie Buffum has documented some very personal thoughts about her mother to raise awareness that the devastation goes beyond the cancer itself.  I would like to thank Stephanie for sharing these thoughts and to her husband, Michael, to alerting us of this posting found on FACEBOOK.

As my fellow PGFD comrades wear their pink shirts this month, I can only hope that we all will reflect as to WHY we support breast cancer awareness.  There are a select few that have been directly affected by this "beast" (as it was called in my household).  Wearing pink is more than just breast cancer alone.  It’s the devastating mark it leaves on a family.  It’s the financial, physical and emotional burden it leaves on not only the patient but also their loved ones.  Its organizations like the Red Devils that help families with some of the trivial things you and I may take for granted like house cleaning, transportation to and from appointments and preparing family meals ... just to name a few.  Susan G. Komen, American Cancer Society and Avon have been great as well to spread the word and fight this terrible disease.

September and October are difficult months for me.   September being when I lost my mom to breast cancer and October is just a month of reminders of what she went through. I am only hoping that my story, will help you all put a name and a more concrete reason of WHY we support breast cancer awareness.

My mom was diagnosed at age 38 (I was 6).  One of those days that I can still see and hear so vividly.  My mom had a mastectomy where cancerous nodes were mistakenly left behind.  (Grrrrrrr!!!)  She did chemo and was coming up to her magic 5 year mark when cancer made its way to the other breast.... another mastectomy and chemo.  We were once again close to the magic 5 year mark when we discovered that "the beast" had moved everywhere, lungs, bone and in the end it was in her liver.  She died in 1993, a young mother and wife, an assistant cheerleading coach, friend and a notable name in the community.  She fought this battle with such grace and also working as she could.  She told one doctor along the way that a "Mack truck would take her out before cancer".  Back then, it embarrassed me when she would say that ... now, I am simply amazed!!!

My mom Anna was a non-smoker, didn't drink (with the exception of her beloved Bahama Mama's - in moderation).  She was not to overweight and ate fairly well.  She was active and overall no health concerns prior to this.  No breast cancer history in the family.  Her dad did have a history of colon cancer, diagnosed in 1993 at age 92? and actually dying 3 days before my mom. 

I can say as a family member, this was more than just difficult.  It was the occasional living hell.  Chemo was brutal when she was getting it; she was bald and extremely sick.  She went through multiple admissions at Bethesda Naval Hospital when she became neutropenic, dehydrated etc. My dad continued to work - to pay the bills.  I would care for my mom as needed.  In my senior year of HS, I did work release (half days) both to work a few hours a week and to come home and be the primary care giver for her.  I had to grow up very quick, I didn't go out or to parties and I lost a lot of my childhood.  And lets face it ... kids can be cruel.  I look back and can't believe some of the things said to me about my mother. 

I write this not for any sympathy, but to raise awareness that the devastation goes beyond the cancer itself.  I was very fortunate to have my BFF Jen, Karen, Misty and Rachel (and their families) in my life.  I would spend many a weekend with them.  They would make sure I had rides to cheerleading practice and sometimes to school.  Good peoples.  I (recently) have received criticism and some labeling of who I am and who I have become and I can tell you ... I challenge everyone to walk a few steps in my shoes and see how you turn out.  I know my parents would be very proud of the Woman, Mother, Wife, Friend, FF, Paramedic and RN that I have become.  I gained my strength and stubbornness from my mother honestly and I am so proud to be like her.  I am also very grateful for my husband who continues to keep my mom and dads memory alive.  He is sporting an awesome pink bracelet this month with my moms name on it.... along with his pink T-shirt.

Even after my moms death, she continued her cancer crusade.  In her last 6 months, she did studies with NIH with test chemo.  Some of the chemo she trialed with has proved to be successful in the fight against ovarian cancer and are in use today :-)

So why will you be wearing PINK this month???

I wear pink for my mom Anna Chafin, Carol Shields, Tanya Grace and Tammy Rigoli.