12 Apr F*Cancer 2019: “Fighters” – Mark Taylor –
Welcome to the 2019 F*Cancer Blog – “Fighters”
This is a raw, unedited look in to the lives of those that have been personally affected by cancer. We wanted to be able to use our resources as a platform for individuals to share their take and outlook on a terrible disease. This nine week program will feature a different fighter each Friday leading up to the launch of the 2019 F*Cancer program in June. We stand with all those who have been affected and want to make positive strides to further education, awareness, and support. We are now in the second week of the blog campaign and we are honored to bring you Mark Taylor’s story.
By Any Measure, I’ve Had a Great Life
I had the pleasure of meeting Mark Taylor in person. He was in town on a camping trip and came by the brewery to put a face to his name and story. A man who values the outdoors, the next great experience, and his family. Mark had his “dream job”, as he put it, as a firefighter protecting his community. Mark spent over a third of his time with his second family at the fire hall with some of the most outstanding individuals he has had the pleasure of knowing.
When asked to describe this large part of his life, Mark said, “As a paramedic I had the pleasure of bringing new lives into the world, the excitement of saving lives, and the honor of being with someone as they left their physical world. I responded to a multitude of emergencies involving fires of many types: dumpster fires, car fires, industrial fires, residential fires and wildland fires. With each emergency response, there was a sense of danger for the unknown. Some of the calls scared the hell out of me. Most allowed me to put my training to work and help someone in need.”
In his early years, he will be the first to tell you that he was “less than diligent about always wearing his self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA)”. At the time, paper masks were thought to be safe enough to wear around extinguished, yet freshly burned materials. However, It was not until health studies were conducted years later that they learned they were still in heavily toxic environments.
A day came, seemingly out of nowhere, at a doctors visit, where first heard his diagnosis. “You have leukemia.”. “Those words, delivered over the telephone by my primary doctor’s nurse, just about made me pass out. My brain had a hard time stopping spinning.” Mark stated. He was 57 years old when he heard the news. While this report was frightening to his family, they wasted no time searching for solutions. It was at his next specialist that he was told he had the “good” cancer. At that time he would most likely not need treatment for several years – so his family was left with the task of watching and waiting.
“Cancer is now the number one killer of firefighters.” Mark stated. “Cancer surpassed cardiac arrest, burns, and trauma as the cause of firefighter deaths. The years of ignorance to, or perhaps complacency with, the hidden dangers of our chosen profession is now killing us at ever increasing rates.” He now advocates to all Fire Departments, including working with the Firefighter Cancer Support Network, to speak out on the danger of not wearing protective equipment in all environments that they face while working.
This past March, Mark joined the Bend Fire and Rescue team in Seattle and climbed 69 stories wearing 50 plus pounds of protective gear (including our friend, the SCBA) in a fund-raising event for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society. In thirteen years, he has raised over $70,000 for cancer research and support.
On January 1st, 2019, Mark was diagnosed with prostate cancer. “By the time you’re reading this, I should be on my way to a post-surgery recovery. It’s usually good luck that comes in threes. Horse racing has the trifecta. Hockey has the hat trick. I’m hoping cancer doesn’t have a negative version of those things. Two is plenty, thank you.”
In his final words of wisdom, Mark wanted to share with you all that “A cancer diagnosis makes you grab the fine-tuning knob on your life and determine what really matters. You can’t go back and change a cancer diagnosis. How you move forward is up to the person staring back at you in the mirror every morning. Get solid medical advice/evidence and don’t hesitate to get a second opinion. Knowledge is power and you’re the boss when you visit an oncologist.”
And so Mark pushes on, grateful for the time he has and the journey that lies ahead of him. Fueled by his goals of staying fit, eating healthy, getting plenty of rest, and never forgetting to enjoy a cold pint now and again.