In the few short years Melissa Janson worked in the emergency room of St. Francis Hospital, she learned several valuable lessons.
Janson, now a firefighter with the Greenfield Fire Department, worked with two women who had breast cancer — one who was actively going through treatment and another whose cancer was in remission but has since come back.
“The one that was going through treatment while I worked there, I saw her go through the different steps: the mastectomy and the hair loss,” Janson said. “She always came to work smiling, happy; she never felt sorry for herself.
“She was just a genuine person, and to see her go through it, I realized so many people go through it. And if I can help just by pushing an idea, why wouldn’t I do it?”
That idea was for the Greenfield Fire Department to create and sell department shirts to help raise money for breast cancer awareness research.
The shirts are available for $15 each, cash or check, at either Greenfield Fire Department station any time this month. The shirts are blue with pink writing.
“Hopefully every year we can switch it up a little bit so people want the new shirt,” Janson said.
Janson and fellow Greenfield firefighter Greg Holz started the fundraiser by selling pink shirts a year ago. They raised $400 for the Susan G. Komen despite getting off to a late start and not selling them until mid-October.
Janson said this year’s sales are on pace with last year, but she and fellow firefighters are still working on ways to market them before the end of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, one Janson now fully understands the significance of.
“Seeing those two women that I worked with, it reminds you that anything can happen to anybody,” Janson said. “With breast cancer, you have to get checked. It’s so common if you don’t catch it early, it could become a lot worse.
“The education that has been talked about in the media and talked about over the last couple years has made people more proactive to check for it. I’m not scared I’m going to get it, but I’ll be proactive.”
Just as she and her fellow fighters have been proactive during the fundraiser. As they did a year ago, the city’s firefighters are wearing the shirts while out on fire and paramedic calls.
“Everyone on the department has one and is wearing it,” Janson said. “I hope we surpass what we did last year and keep it going in coming years. Every little bit helps, even if it’s only $400.”