Moments after the zoom meeting ended, Dr. Noelle Cutter, the moderator and host of the 2nd May 13th Cancer PowerMeet event described the collection of cancer support advocates as "the most impressive set of passionate caregivers... inspiring leadership and unity in the community to CONVERT AWARENESS INTO ACTION!" In the post-event team meeting, "Cousin Sal" Banchitta, (retired FDNY firefighter turned cancer prevention ambassador for NYCRA) echoed Dr. Cutter's statement with "it's about the Power of Love and the Power to Care... it truly takes a lot of self-generating energy from within to step up to the plate and help others, especially when it comes to cancer."
WHY DO WE CALL IT A "POWERMEET"?
This 2-part series focused on Occupational Cancers in the Fire Service. Special guests were selected around medical supporters, educators & advocates to introduce their specific disciplines in support of the first responders. The framers of the event included legendary cancer awareness speaker Dan Noonan from the 1975 NY Tel Exchange Disaster and internationally published cancer diagnostic expert Dr. Robert Bard. According to Mr. Noonan, seeking out the most outspoken and the most respected members of FF cancer awareness helped shape the success of the event's message of "GET CHECKED NOW!"
Unlike the original March event, part 2 expanded its reach to recruit national partners in the fire service. JIM BURNEKA JR. (Dayton, OH), DENA PLUMMER (Canton, TX), GEG OLIVA (Culver City, CA), LT. CHRIS CONNER (Bedford/Fort Worth, TX) and CHIEF BOBBY HALTON (Tulsa, OK) added new zip codes to the NY Family- making up the national society called the I.C.R.A. - Integrative Cancer Resource Alliance. Greg Oliva of the Movember Foundation was chosen to represent the community of international cancer orgs. "Movember started out in Australia and we now have over 20 countries and fund over 1200 innovative health projects- supporting firefighters' cancer is certainly a major interest of ours, and the honor of being in this zoom room and meeting so many great DOERS is so inspiring... and validating about my own work with the foundation!"
Another objective of this program was to introduce and welcome Lt. Christopher Conner, CEO of The F.A.C.E.S. Foundation (Firefighters Against Cancer and Exposures). He originally established this org. as a charitable foundation, but by mid-2021, FACES united with NYCRA to form an expanded resource support group. With the added strength of over 210 national cancer orgs & hundreds of health resources + first responder groups, F.A.C.E.S. 2.0 morphed into a collective of new ideas and abilities to bring bring public support and aid to our heroes. "Firefighters and their families dedicate their lives and lifestyles to save others; it is our turn to help them. Our challenge coin has an inscription- "Heroum Animas Salvas". it means "Save the Lives of Heroes". That's our mission right there!"
In a separate interview with ICRA Events associate producer, Cheri Ambrose (founder of the Male Breast Cancer Coalition), uniting leaders under a common cause has its challenges, especially in the cancer awareness community. Not everyone is on the same page, but when you find synergy and common ground, THAT'S A FAMILY!
Dena Plummer of FLAME KEEPERS brought a unique and special voice to the mix, translating into a powerful resource for firefighters. "I started it because my husband's (medical) case was the first in the city of Dallas and the second in the state of Texas to file against Workers' Comp using our state presumptive law. I found myself in uncharted territory. Most of the needed information either wasn't available or could only be found in bits and pieces. I saw a need for an organization to gather and provide all possible information to the firefighter and/or his family in the areas of Workers' Comp., state and national benefits and also government and private organizations. Members of our organization prepare the firefighter and their family for what to expect each step of the way, and have contact information for others who can also help along the way."
THE CANCER BATTLE IS WAGED BY GLOBAL EDUCATION
By: Dr. Robert Bard
After my military tour in Vietnam as a radiologist (1972), I realized that there are many ways to treat disease not understood by conventional American medicine. I traveled to Denmark in 1974 to learn from where they pioneered conducting pancreatic tumor needle biopsies to avoid surgeries on benign tumors. This procedure was later adopted in the United States around 2019. Radiologists perform this using sonograms in real time directly to the patient in France because Europeans are trained to perform the sonogram without a technician because the scan is part of the physical examination
. I learned to do non-invasive prostate imaging and advanced tumor blood flow tracking that shows tumor aggression from Italy. From Germany, I was taught to do 3D imaging, which reduces the scan time to seconds instead of minutes and sometimes hours.
My message here is that there is no one answer to cancer, and that scientific leadership is from many sources across the globe. The scientific community needs to continue working together by sharing information and conducting joint research programs. I'm glad to find some of the top technical innovations, international patents and treatment protocols are usually authored and designed by a team of developers from multiple continents. I am equally proud to bring together all these concepts (from abroad) into the hands of people in our country. That's my commitment to my patients- including our first responders.
ANALYZING TODAY'S FIRES: FACING A DOMESTIC STANDARD
In the style of a roundtable discussion, the moderator kickstarted the discussion ret. FF Chief Bobby Halton - a favorite in the national responders community and industrial publishing. Chief Halton captivated the group with profound statements about the significant need for dedicated diagnostics for all fire personnel in response to the highly lethal nature of modern fires from complex carcinogenic materials.
"Talking about occupational health issues, I think we need to talk about industrial hygiene because in the fire service, it is non-existent. Every other profession has industrial hygienists who can help identify patterns, trends, hazards, but the fire service doesn't have that as an industry yet. There's a great book by Dr. Deborah Wallace (an industrial hygienist in NYC) called 'In the Mouth of the Dragon: Why Today's Fires are More Dangerous'. She looked at over 18 fires, including the ATT fire and looked at how the people died and aligned this all with the toxicity of these fires."
"To dovetail on what Dr. Bart just said about European technologies, hydroxocobalamin has been used as an antidote to smoking election in Europe since the nineties. It's still not approved in the United States. Although we do have cyanide kits, they are still under a provisional from our FDA- so our bureaucracy has been a problem when it comes to understanding toxicity in fires and bringing that awareness. And plus I think we were hampered early by the Lemasters study that albeit with the best of intentions created a tremendous moral hazard and making statements that were wildly inaccurate."
Andrea Booher / FEMA
Mar 31, 2021- The Integrative Cancer Resource Alliance launches the first virtual town-hall style video meeting called The 2021 Cancer PowerMeet series. This interactive event is part of a set of panel-driven meetings covering the topics of OCCUPATIONAL TOXIC EXPOSURES and SURVIVORSHIP AFTER THE JOB - with a list of prominent guests from the Medical and First Responders' communities. Headliners for this event include nationally recognized spokesman for fire safety and fire rescue veteran from the 1975 NY Tel Fire & 9/11 DAN NOONAN. Alongside Mr. Noonan is 35+ year cancer medical imaging professor DR. ROBERT BARD (NYC) + associate director of the First Responders Cancer Resource Group and active duty responder in 9/11 Sal Banchitta. Together, they all share their powerful experiences about notable disasters in history, answering targeted questions from a panel of top members in the cancer care community steering public awareness and education about prevention and early detection as part of I.C.R.A.'s "Get Checked Now!" program.
Focus Groups: First Responders, Cancer Research Professionals & Cancer Community Leaders Speakers: Dan Noonan (Ret. FDNY), Sal Banchitta (Ret. FDNY) and Dr. Robert L. Bard
The Integrative Cancer Resource Alliance is proud to launch its 2021 'PowerMeet' series on OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH RISKS starting with its first focus group- The Emergency Responders in the Fire Service. Architected by executive director Lennard Gettz and The I.C.R.A. Educational team, the event recruited "a perfect fusion of guests from various cancer-specific interest areas to provoke a strong Q/A exchange about job-related cancers". This event offered a highly charged educational exchange with direct insights, viewpoints and experiences from retired firefighters and members of the medical community + questions from other professionals from both sides.
Selected headliners are chosen for their professional experiences and their profound presence as educators. The lineup includes Dan Noonan (Ret. FDNY), "Cousin" Sal Banchitta (Ret. FDNY) and Dr. Robert Bard, cancer diagnostic imaging specialist - recognized in the community as the "cancer detective". Together, they cover the patient-doctor dynamics of the cancer care dynamics.
"The One-Voice mission of The I.C.R.A. is to present like-minded educators, advocates and resources to form a harmonized chorus... with messages of educated prevention, early detection and proactive lifestyle", states Cheri Ambrose, moderator and president of the Male Breast Cancer Coalition. "There are so many answers to cancer, and hearing them from those who are affected in these unique ways (either as medical experts, patient advocates, family members or as the cancer patients themselves) makes for a powerful messenger of what can and should be done to keep everyone safe!"
GET CHECKED NOW!
Known internally as “the button”, NYCRA received a modest gift of $255 from a firefighter’s widow and was used to produce the “Get Checked Now!” button for the group’s first meeting with the FDNY/RMA (Retired Members Assoc.) in 2018. It remains the signature call for the team’s many ‘road trips’, videos, articles and fire service presentations. The motto continues to resonate in the 2021 PowerMeet as Dan Noonan proudly holds up his button to the Zoom camera to start off his introduction.
CANCER SCIENCE MEETS "THE FIREHOUSE KITCHEN"
Each of the speakers came to this event with "guns a-blazing". Dr. Bard shared a 7-slide presentation illustrating the common cancer scans from actual firefighters to best describe the science of diagnostics. In addition, he shared his own personal experiences with agent orange exposure from the Viet-Nam era as a military officer as the impetus to his public outreach to all cases of toxic exposures in service personnel.
"Bringing in a scientific powerhouse like Dr. Bard is a one man army of endless knowledge about understanding cancer", stated Sal Banchitta. "His part of the presentation was called 'Straight Talk from the Doc'- and I personally have never heard a doctor speak this candidly and offer this much information clearly and concisely. Cancer is not an easy topic to discuss- but Dr. Bard's 4 minute intro taught me more than months of reading - and having a front row seat to ask him my questions is such a rare honor!"
The I.C.R.A. committee is scheduling 15 PowerMeets for the year, but unanimously wanted to launch the 'Cancers on the Job' series with speakers from the fire service. "I would be remiss if we did not kick off such an important event without Dan (Noonan), probably one of the most recognized and outspoken firefighters in modern history to speak about fire safety from cancer exposures. Dan survived the devastating 1975 NY Tel Fire (where 699 firefighters were heavily exposed to the most horrible carcinogens of burning PVC) and volunteered in 9/11 past retirement. As far as I'm concerned, Dan Noonan is a national treasure with an immeasurable heart to represent us all!"
In the 40 minute exchange, Dan responded with kind generosity and down-to-earth directness, which he attributes as part of "straight talk from the kitchen" (the 'communication central' of all firehouses). With pointed conviction to fire safety at the cost of so many lives, Dan Noonan delivered with blistering urgency. "I enjoy bringing awareness to my fellow first responders... and all folks exposed to these chemicals. I think this country as a whole has to step up and really ring the bell for these people and bring them awareness with "Get Checked Now!" I emphasize this to all my fellow firefighters, new firefighters and first responders coming on the job. But the problem there is that when you come on the department, you're young and you think you're invincible. You think you're Superman. You want to serve the community. And boy, you put that uniform on and you're ready to rock and roll, but you don't identify the hazards. And that's why it falls on us. All of us to say, 'Hey, time out'-- you gotta be aware of the ABC-XYZ and be sure to get checked."
INTERACTIVE AUDIENCE BEYOND OUR BORDERS "We are blessed to have such a powerful group of individuals who hold the common spirit to make a difference." Unlike webinars and talk shows where most of the audience is limited to being spectators, each invitee carries a major role of driving the headliners to share and discuss with highly charged questions. They are hand selected based on their own professions, encouraging discussions about job-related cancers but are also public advocates in their own right.
This event is a FIRST, both as a pilot project and also as the official launch of The I.C.R.A. brand- a global branch formed by The NY Cancer Resource Alliance. "As one of the first medical speakers of the group, the New York alliance on Linkedin was started back in 2018 - but it was impossible to keep local when the web was connecting us with so many cancer experts from everywhere. The I.C.R.A. banner covers our global family with endless possibilities. The philosophy of INTEGRATIVE applies to expansive medicine and borderless alliances (and is) as the most powerful problem solving paradigm", says Dr. Robert Bard.
One of the first panelists was David Dachinger- Career Fire Lieutenant, IAFF Local 1739 (Ridgefield, CT.) and inventor of the Loving Medications stress reduction technology for patients in treatment. "Cancer in the fire service is an epidemic and NOW is the time for radical awareness and culture change... I love the direction of this forum of bringing the many sides of advocacy together."
A Texas-based partner group supporting firefighters cancer is F.A.C.E.S (Firefighters Against Cancer Exposures), a national program led by Christopher Conner of Bedford TX. In the early days of NYCRA's 9/11 CancerScan project, a strong connection was established to share and support each other. "I am proud to connect with all firefighters in need of help- especially anyone affected healthwise by the job. This type of event powerfully supports that feeling of awareness and can only charge up the community to better understand this ongoing issue."
Other speakers included Mindy Conklin of "Hitting Cancer Below the Belt" (hcb2.org) of Virginia, Julia Chiappetta (breast cancer survivor/health educator) of Cos Cob, CT and Elizabeth Banchitta (EMT/safety publisher) of Kings Park, NY. They contributed greatly to the engaging and dynamic energy of the PowerMeet.
The I.C.R.A. program recently acquired the technology to translate all articles and videos to as many as 9 different languages supported by partners in countries such as Italy, The Netherlands, France, Spain, England- and other nations where cancer research is prominent.
IN SOLIDARITY TO DEFEAT CANCER
by Elizabeth Banchitta, EMT
Now more than ever, with the Covid-19 pandemic exhausting all resources of our healthcare community, hospitals and practitioners everywhere are suffering a major crash from the disconnect with patients who need vital care and maintenance (especially cancer cases). Uniting medical and community leaders to share and brainstorm under an alliance of proactive health, safety and treatment measures is a valuable element in the fight against cancer- as shown in events like the Cancer PowerMeet.
It was such an honor to see a screen full of true DO'ers of their own personal crusades unite to present and do so much more- together. If this 'meeting of the minds' is about leadership, kicking off the series with first responders was strategically empowering. This unique breed of rescuers are most regarded for their self sacrifice, focused only on THE job - even long after retirement! When we approached Dan (Noonan) to be the first speaker, it was so inspiring to hear his “Count me in!” – amidst major cancer surgeries and personal challenges. It is his presence and all those like him that drives us all to do the best we can to ‘get the word out’ for him, and alongside him. With this PowerMeet, we have a united and inspired new voice to drive this message even louder and farther beyond all borders.
2022 RESCEUE GALLERY: Celebrating Field Photographers Since the advent of 9/11, global campaigns drove the "NEVER FORGET" mantra that defined the voice of our post-attack era. FILM, VIDEO and PHOTOGRAPHY documents timeless moments, especially events that change our world. The First Responders Cancer Resource (formerly 9/11 CancerScan) ,thanks in part to the historical archives of the 9/11 World Trade Center Memorial and Museum, gained exclusive access to some of the most remarkable works by photographers like KEVIN COUGHLIN (Pulitzer Prize-sharing photojournalist), ROBERTO RABANNE and ANDREA BOOHER - whose powerful images photographs continue to support our culture and grace the many pages of 9/11 related historical presentations. "They are priceless nuggets of visual narrative and evidence of important occurrences gone past - especially in cases like the collection of prints of 9/11 photos." (see feature article)
CANCER IN THE FIRE SERVICE
According to a 2015 NIOSH study of cancer cases in the U.S., Fire fighters had a greater number of cancer diagnoses and cancer-related deaths in mostly digestive, oral, respiratory, and urinary cancers. There were about twice as many fire fighters with malignant mesothelioma, a rare type of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Exposure to asbestos while fire fighting is the most likely explanation for this. There were more cases of certain cancers among younger fire fighters. For example, fire fighters in our study who were under 65 years of age had more bladder and prostate cancers than expected. When comparing fire fighters in our study to each other: The chance of lung cancer diagnosis or death increased with amount of time spent at fires. The chance of leukemia death increased with the number of fire runs. (Source: CDC/NIOSH- Findings from a Study of Cancer among U.S. Fire Fighters:
Feb. 27, 2021 - The effects of Burn Pits are being compared to other known military health cases like the wide exposure to Agent Orange from Viet Nam- as well as the many cancer cases caused by disasters like 9/11. - "...Unlike exposure to Agent Orange, VA does not consider any disabilities presumptively associated with exposure to burn pit smoke. Therefore, post-9/11 veterans filing claims for service connection must obtain a medical opinion stating that their condition is at least as likely as not a result of their exposure to burn pit smoke. VA adjudicates burn pit claims on a case-by-case basis in which the decision is based on the facts unique to each claim."
Over 45 years ago, the first responders' community including the remaining survivors of the 1975 NY Tel Exchange Fire recalls one of the most significant disasters in firefighting history next only to 9/11. The many health impacts from this historical event, exposing all responders also resulted in countless safety references from its many occupational hazards as well as prevention protocols and protective innovations. The NY Cancer Resource Alliance (NYCRA) features Ret. FDNY Ff. Dan Noonan and his contribution & sacrifice to the City of New York. After his tenure at the fire service, Mr. Noonan pursued a life-long national crusade in safety awareness and publishing educational projects including his report about the 1975 NY Telephone Exchange Fire.
DR. NOELLE CUTTER - Assoc. Professor at Molloy College Director / TedX Speaker As first responders, firefighters are subject to a countless number of toxins while saving lives. For example, PVC, a common toxic plastic has been linked to several cancers including liver cancer, brain, lung, lymphoma, and leukemia. Listening to the first hand stories from these hero’s is truly motivating. Their powerful stories shed light on some of the occupational exposures that these hero’s endure. The Integrative Cancer Resource Alliance is bringing together our beloved heroes to raise public awareness on occupational exposures and survivorship after the job. By doing so, the group aims to provide outreach and educational resources about prevention and early detection. The Integrative Cancer Resource Alliance promotes prevention and early detection through their “Get Checked Now” campaign. Dr. Robert Bard, MD, Cancer Diagnostics and Imaging, gives meaningful insight into the importance of following firefighters who may have been exposed to toxins on the job. The Integrative Cancer Resource Alliance truly lives up to its mission on brining advocacy and other forms of aid to cancer victims in the fire services.
BORYS KRYNYCKI - PET/CT interpretation / Personal Care Molecular Imaging When dealing with cancer size does matter. Establishing an early diagnosis of cancer when tumor burden is low and limited to a single site can lead to better outcomes. The longer the delay in diagnosis, the more chances cancer has to mutate to more aggressive variants and spread to other parts of the body. Advanced screening and diagnostic techniques work in synergy to detect cancer at an early stage, to customize patient treatment. Once the patient has been treated, the goal is to detect recurrence of disease at an early stage, also for some of the same reasons as above. In addition, with the same advanced diagnostic techniques working in synergy the scenario of “oligometastatic” disease becomes more prevalent, i.e. recurrence is confined to a single or very limited set of sites in the body. This provides for the opportunity to perform a more custom targeted plan of patient treatment, with ultimately better results.
ETERNAL GRATITUDES: A great many thanks to our headliners, Dr. Robert Bard, (Dapper) Dan Noonan and "Cousin" Sal Banchitta for their unending generosity, their resilience and unforgettable presence in the fight against cancer. Also, our eternal gratitude goes to: Melinda Conklin of Hitting Cancer Below the Belt (HCB2.org), Tony and Laura Carfang (SurvivingBreastCancer.org), Dave Dachinger/ Tamara Green (lovingmeditations.com), Cheri Ambrose & Kirby Lewis (malebreastcancercoalition.org), Liz Banchitta (cousinsal.org), Dr. Stephen Chagares (www.drchagares.com), Johnny "Double Pains" Graziano (modernpainrelief.com), Dr. Pierre Kory (flccc.net), Dr. Conrad & Coleen Maulfair (maulfairmedicalcenter.com), Phil Muccio (axiobionics.com), Greg Oliva (movember.org) and Chris Conner (F.A.C.E.S.- healthscannyc.org) for your labor of love, your hard work and the inspiration & empowerment you provided this project. Your leadership helped drive the connective nature of this alliance, without whose support this event and our collective mission could not be made possible!
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