The Marietta Fire Department is taking aim at more than one safety issue this month.
As always, the department has a long list of activities planned for Fire Prevention Month, but it is a different danger than has the firefighters sporting pink T-shirts while on duty this month.
The pink tees, which feature a ribbon shaped like a fire hose surrounded by the words "Hope" and "Strength" and the department's name and local union number, are the department's way of lending their voice to the Breast Cancer Awareness cause.
JASMINE ROGERS The Marietta Times
Marietta firefighters from left, Dave Lenington, Eric Moore, Captain Jack Hansis, Chief C.W. Durham, Scott Casto, Josh Chevalier, Matt Hively, Lt. Larry Bargeloh, and Matt Alloway, show off the pink breast cancer awareness shirts they will be wearing while on duty in October.
"I originally saw other firefighters wearing pink shirts on the Internet and my wife being a survivor, I thought it would be a good thing to do here," said department Lt. Larry Bargeloh.
Bargeloh's wife, Betty, was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer in 2006.
"I had my surgery in February and my chemotherapy in March (of that year). It was very quick," she recalled.
Breast cancer statistics
About 232,340 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women in 2013.
About 39,620 women will die from breast cancer in 2013.
Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, exceeded only by lung cancer.
Earlier detection through screening, increased awareness, as well as improved treatment are credited with steadily decreasing death rates attributed to breast cancer.
There are currently more than 2.8 million breast cancer survivors in the United States, including women still being treated and those who have completed treatment.
Source: American Cancer Society.
The Bargelohs consider themselves lucky to have caught Betty's lump early. The shirts, which are being worn by firefighters and close family members, are a good way to celebrate other survivors. But they are also a powerful reminder that plenty of people out there are still fighting cancer, said Betty.
In fact, most of the firefighters have been affected in some way by cancer, said Marietta Fire Department Capt. Jack Hansis.
"Some of us have wives, sisters, mothers, grandparents, who have been affected," he said.
The department often responds to emergency calls involving cancer patients, he added.
"We get a window into what these people have to deal with. Cancer is an ordeal the whole family deals with and often you're treating the whole family-giving treatment to the patients and reassuring the loved ones," said Hansis.
Hansis has firsthand knowledge of the havoc cancer can cause. Both of his sisters are breast cancer survivors. He also lost a mother-in-law and a sister-in law to different forms of cancer.
If there is a takeaway from his experiences, it is that an ounce of prevention goes a long way, he said.
"We would rather have fire prevention and education than a fire fight. Why not the same thing with cancer? There are plenty of warning signs. There are plenty of resources," said Hansis.
For that reason, the firefighters are vocal proponents of education when it comes to any and all types of cancer.
In fact, Betty Bargeloh credits her husband with urging her to be vigilant about self-exams.
"I know two girls from my high school class who died of breast cancer less than 20 years out of school," said the lieutenant.
"That's when he came home and told me 'You're going to start getting checkups,'" said Betty.
Bargeloh and the other firefighters hope their pink shirts will help others have those same conversations, he said.
"It's good to be informed and make good decisions. It's good to talk about it," he said.