Washington firefighter facing colon cancer responds to new resources for firefighters

One local firefighter facing colon cancer responds to new resources for firefighters
Published: Feb. 2, 2023 at 8:12 PM EST
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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Firefighters can face many dangers on the job, including exposure to what’s known as PFAS, referred to as forever chemicals. Thursday morning, the North Carolina Firefighters’ Alliance announced new resources at the NC Mid-Winter Chiefs’ Conference at the Concord Convention to bring awareness and prevention for firefighters.

Brent Hamilton a Washington Fire Department Lieutenant of 16 years revisits the day he got diagnosed with colon cancer. “You know, just that moment in time of trying to fathom that and understand and just know what in the world is going on. Like why? How did this happen?”

PFAS particles are said to play a part in firefighting.

“PFAS are found in the turnout gear of firefighters as well as in firefighting foam and so there’s multiple ways of being exposed to PFAS if you’re a firefighter. PFAS are associated with health risks such as cancer,” said Brody School of Medicine Pharmacology and Toxicology Researcher, Tracey Woodlief.

The North Carolina Firefighter Cancer Alliance is doing its part to provide resources for firefighters just like Hamilton.

“Our mission has been to educate, to empower, and also to give support to firefighters,” NC Firefighter Cancer Alliance Director, Travis McGaha said.

Resources like cancer screening programs, a 24-hour peer support network, and a resource information toolkit to help firefighters and their families cope with the news of cancer.

“When I was diagnosed, I really didn’t know anything about them... that you have these resources that are about cancer prevention and awareness right there,” Hamilton said.

For Hamilton, utilizing resources and taking the necessary safety precautions is key.

“Every chance you get, making sure you’re taking those precautions to eliminate it. Just those simple things like once you come out of a fire, getting your gear off of you, and wiping your body down. Changing that mindset, changing that routine to better us with cancer in general, yeah... we’ve got to do something.”

Hamilton also urges other firefighters to always be mindful of taking care of themselves and listening to their bodies. He is in his second of six months of Chemo treatment and says the prayers and constant support of many people and firefighting cancer associations are what is most important.