During the month of October, Gulfport Firefighters are trading in uniforms for pink shirts in an effort to increase awareness, communication and raise money for various breast cancer charities.
Like thousands of Americans, the firefighters of Shift B have also been affected by breast cancer.
Firefighter and Paramedic Scott Burford says the awareness today has brought questions, fears and personal stories to light. He's thankful the nation has come together to "fight" breast cancer and has encourages people to come forward with their struggles.
"It's amazing," he said.
Burford says his mom, Patsy, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003. Back when the awareness wasn't what it is today, he says.
"I don't recall any information. I don't think they told me," Scott said.
Patsy had recently retired from her career as an elementary school teacher and was finally able to spend as much time as she wanted with her five grandsons. Scott says his mom was an active 70-year-old, who all of a sudden, was admitted to the hospital, received treatments and participated in rehabilitation. Burford didn't know anything else about her condition.
"I thought it was under control," Scott said.
Patsy spent four months in the hospital until one day he received the phone call.
"When she passed away, it was hard. We had no idea how severe it really was," he said.
Burford says she was active and walking around the day before she passed. "My dad was very quiet . . . he still doesn't talk about it," Scott said.
"She was wonderful," he said.
Burford hopes that by sharing his story, other families going through breast cancer treatment talk to each other and create an open communication. Burford didn't know how bad the cancer was because they didn't discuss it. While it's not for everyone to know about the diagnosis, treatments and complications, at least opening up to those you love, may help with understanding and acceptance.
Firefighter and EMT Brian Campbell says his aunt, Cathy Campbell, is currently receiving chemotherapy treatments following a double mastectomy after her diagnosis. Campbell says another aunt on his mother's side of the family passed away a couple of years ago from breast cancer. Donna Longchamps was 61 years old and may have been diagnosed at a later stage. He believes Cathy's cancer was detected early on.
"Get checked. Early detection can save a life," he said.
Lt. Adam Poirrier
Firefighter and Paramedic Lt. Adam Poirrier says his mom, Karen, has been cancer free for two years. He credits early detection for saving her life. Poirrier says she received chemotherapy and even continued to work during the treatments.
"It's scary for sure but it's treatable if it's caught early," he said.
Poirrier says breast cancer affects a lot of people and until today, he and the other members of Shift B weren't aware of their individual experiences with breast cancer. His advise for others with loved ones fighting cancer is to be supportive and stay positive.
"You're hoping for the best outcome," he said.
Gulfport Firefighters have come together for a cause that affected and still affects some of their families. They'll continue to spread awareness with pink t-shirts throughout the month and hope that their participation helps in any way possible.
Pink Shirts for Sale:
Gulfport Firefighters are selling pink t-shirts to help raise money for various charities in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. They are $15 a piece. Call (727) 893-1059 or stop by the station at 5314 23rd Ave S if you'd like to buy one. Officials are accepting cash only.