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June 24th, 2009

Firefighter and Three-Time Cancer Survivor Uses His Experience to Help Others

I add this story not only because Lorenzo Abundiz is a firefighter, but because he is a philanthropic warrior - a man who focused on helping others while facing down death throughout his own terrible struggles. Abundiz has suffered through three separate cancers and over 250 surgeries since his initial diagnosis in 1998. Instead of admitting defeat, however, he turned his own pain and strife into a roadmap for helping other firefighters and their families who found themselves on a similarly terrifying path.

From the website:

Abundiz' first cancer was a rare and highly aggressive one called "leiomyosarcoma," located on his right side chest wall, which needed immediate treatment. Unfortunately, because Abundiz' employer denied his claim that the cancer was job related, he was not covered under the workers' compensation sytem. Thus, he was forced to rely on the general medical establishment to provide timely treatment, which was anything but timely. It took a month for a much needed surgery to be approved, and by that time the tumor had grown considerably, with the possibility of satellite cancer cells spreading.

As Abundiz lay in a hospital bed at USC Medical Center in Los Angeles recovering from kidney surgery on March 12, 2006, he was inspired to do something to help other firefighters who are going through similar struggles. Out of that moment grew the Code 3 for a Cure Foundation, an organization formed specifically to help firefighters who are diagnosed with cancer and their families, as well as select nonprofits who are helping fight the war on cancer.

 Nearly all of us have been touched by cancer and have had to struggle to with medical costs that insurance refused to cover; I believe that Abundiz's altruistic efforts are something each of us can get behind. I urge you to visit his website and nonprofit organization, Code 3 for a Cure Foundation  (code3foracure.org). For more information, please watch Houston's KPRC Local 2 interview with this amazing survivor.

Firefighters Have High Cancer Risk:

Something I learned from visiting Code 3 for a Cure was that firefighters have an extremely high chance of contracting cancer sometime in their lives. They are constantly exposed to smoke and any number of harmful chemicals that may be in that smoke. Unfortunately, even though statistics prove this to be the case, firefighters often have a difficult time getting worker's compensation to help them pay for their cancer treatments. Due to this, many brave men and women have lost their lives to cancers that may have been treatable and even survivable - if only they had been able to afford proper treatment.

According to the American Cancer Society, half of all men and one-third of all women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives. It is becoming more and more apparent just what an epidemic this disease truly is. That is why one of the goals of Code 3 for a Cure is to contribute a percentage of our funds toward organizations that are conducting cancer research, and/or helping those diagnosed. The main focus of our organization, however, is to provide assistance specifically to firefighters who are diagnosed with cancer and their families. Why? Statistics show that firefighters are at a higher risk of cancer than the general population due to their exposure to toxic substances throughout the course of their careers.

Further, and perhaps even more disturbing:

But in spite of numerous findings pointing to an increased cancer risk among firefighters, as well as presumptive laws that have been passed in certain states, it is still an uphill battle for many firefighters to try to prove that their cancer is job related so they can get the medical care they need. Read more...

The fledgling Code 3 for a Cure Foundation seeks to help firefighters and their families dealing with the financial hardships that cancer can, with disastrous results, bring upon a family; from being denied medical coverage to losing a job. This is not only a noble cause, but a much-needed crusade.

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