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All in the Family Jack Wallers Fire Service Support System B rotherhood is a term that pulls its weight in the fire service. Among shifts pushing throughout the station into the department and out into the state as a whole the family that is the fire service ties its members in through the jobs passion dedication and loyalty. This is something Jack Waller witnessed first hand when he was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma in 2014 at the age of 49. Waller had been positioned at the South King County Training Consortium as a Captain for only a handful of months when he received his diagnosis. When talking about his health verdict he lists off more than a dozen names of fellow servicemen and women that took him in as their own. They just bear-hugged me they treated me like family and I think that was huge in my ultimate positive outcome says Waller who is in his second year of remission. I got lucky that I got a cancer I could get rid of but I think that having them working with methat supportwas crucial for me and was a positive part of the process. Hodgkins lymphoma like its sibling type non-Hodgkins lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system a vital component of the defense of the immune system. Hodgkins causes abnormal cell growth in the lymphatic system and as it progresses compromises the bodys ability to fight off infection. For Waller after finally coming to terms with the abnormalities occurring in his body he spoke with his sister a former oncology nurse. She insisted he see a specialist as he was showing textbook symptoms for lymphoma like unexpected weight loss and a persistent cough. In the fire service historically were all 10-feet-tall and bulletproof and nothing can happen to us Waller says. So when goofy funky things start happening to your body that we cant explain we deny it and try to explain it away. If something is happening to your body that you cant explain dont wait go to your doctor and dont stop with your doctor until you get an answer. Although this type of lymphoma is not on the RCWs list of presumptive fire fighter cancers it lists a primary cause as farm chemicals something that Waller was exposed to growing up as a child and young adult in Eastern Washington as well as on the job. He plans to file an LI claim over the diagnosis so the data is documented. The more of us that come forward in this profession at some point theres a tipping point where theyll go wow there are 5000 fire fighters whove got Hodgkins lymphoma. More common among people half his age Wallers diagnosis was a statistical oddity and struck a chord with his colleagues. I was told there was a pretty sizable uptick in tenured people my age in the service that were going to the doctor for physicals he says. If nothing else it got people to go to the doctor. Waller now a Battalion Chief at the Tukwila Fire Department understands that the change in policy especially on a statewide level will take both time and money. Youre fighting 100 years of tradition unhampered by progress he says. Itll be gradual but our probationary fire fighters and the recruits that are coming in now wont know any different. As time goes by we advance technology and our understanding of the disease and how its affecting us as an occupation. Cancer is an epidemic within this brotherhood of fire fighters Waller insists as he counts the number of cancer-related funerals within the last few months. Cancer is not discriminatory he says. Its not the 50-somethings or the 20-somethings in the service its all of us. Any little thing no matter how inconvenient it might be at the time if its going to prevent you from what I had to go through and increase your quality of life when you retire Id have to say its worth it. BY ERIN JAMES 2 3