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Why Prince Rupert relays - Firefighters honour Norman Barker

Oliver Bredesen and Ralph Weick are two of the members from the Prince Rupert Firefighters Relay for Life Team.  - Martina Perry
Oliver Bredesen and Ralph Weick are two of the members from the Prince Rupert Firefighters Relay for Life Team.
— image credit: Martina Perry

Cancer doesn’t discriminate.

The disease doesn’t care about ethnicity, gender, sexual preference, or social status. Anyone can be diagnosed with cancer.

However, for some, the likelihood of getting the disease increases because of lifestyle, or even what occupation they have.

Scientific evidence has shown there is a connection between working as a firefighter and being diagnosed with certain types of cancer because of chemicals firefighters are exposed to on the job.

This includes, but is not limited to, prostate and bladder cancer, which retired Prince Rupert firefighters Francis Wolfe and Norman Barker have battled against. While Wolfe was able to beat cancer for the most part, Barker was not so lucky.

That’s why members of the Prince Rupert Fire Rescue Department relay; to honour members diagnosed with cancer, as well as to help raise funds to find a cure so firefighters, and everyone else, don’t have to take on the disease.

The Prince Rupert Firefighters  Relay For Life Team formed just less than two weeks ago, but have already managed to recruit more than a dozen team members, and are well on their way of their $1,000 fundraising goal.

Led by team captain Ralph Weick, the Prince Rupert Firefighters’ relay team consists of Brody Bishop, Rod Gowe, Oliver Bredesen, Jon Bonneschranz, Remo Pomponio, James Daniele, Ryan Fuzi, Rocky Paolo, Rick Ruemer, Matt Gurnsey, Jordan Burrows, Real Jones, Derek Kormendy and survivor Wolfe.

On May 17, the day The Northern View sat down with Weick, marked the one-year anniversary of Norman Barker losing his battle with prostate cancer.

Weick said when the Prince Rupert Fire Rescue crew found out Norm’s, a longtime firefighter in Prince Rupert, cancer was terminal it was eye-opening.

“It certainly brings a realism to it all. We hear that firefighters are more likely to get types of cancer than most people in other lines of work, but to actually have two incidents of it within our hall has been eye-opening and has raised our own awareness,” he said.

“We were all really close to Norman. Norm was a super guy. Of all the guys I’ve worked with over the years, he was probably the most level-headed, easy-going and generous,” Wolfe said, mentioning a team of guys from the hall and retired firefighters will be helping Norm’s wife with repairs to her home later this summer.

Wolfe was first diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2007, but likely caught it in the early stages. Two years later during a check-up, it was discovered the cancer had come back, but this time bigger.

“[The doctor] thought at that time I may lose my bladder, but as it worked out... the tumour hadn’t [spread] through the wall of my bladder, so they were able to save it,” he said.

“I’m a lot luckier than some people... I’ve never had chemo or radiation,” he said, adding he swears by the medical team he had to help him, and the friends, co-workers and family that supported him.

Although Wolfe was diagnosed with cancer once again in 2011, this time in his prostate, he once again overcame the disease, and continues to be a leader in fundraising for cancer societies. Not only has the retired-firefighter been participating in Prince Rupert’s Relay for Life events over the years, but this June he will be doing his fifth Ride to Conquer Cancer, which benefits the BC Cancer Foundation. Each year, riders participating must raise at least $2,500 for groundbreaking cancer research.

With just more than one week until Prince Rupert’s Relay for Life event on Saturday, June 1, the Prince Rupert Firefighters are looking forward to many aspects of the event. Some members of the team have been participating in the relay for years, while others will be doing it for their first time.

Weick said a moving moment for him at relays has been the luminary ceremony.

“Right as it gets to be dusk and the sun is going down they light the luminaries around the track, and it’s touched me to see how many people have been affected in one way or another,” he said.

Luminaries can be purchased for $5 in memory of those affected by the disease, with money going toward fundraising efforts for the Canadian Cancer Society.

Prince Rupert’s Relay for Life will take place at the Prince Rupert Middle School Track from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on June 1. Anyone can participate in the relay for a $20 registration fee.

Anyone interested in donating to Prince Rupert relay teams can do so at the website, www.relaybc.ca.

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