Firefighting runs in Bruce Vosburgh’s family — so does cancer
Published 11:34 pm Wednesday, October 6, 2010
By AARON MUELLER
Niles Daily Star
Bruce Vosburgh has battled plenty of fires in his 38 years with the Niles Township Fire Department.
But his battle with and victory over cancer may have helped more lives.
Vosburgh, who overcame testicular cancer 28 years ago and has been cancer-free since, has sacrificed time and energy to help fellow firefighters who are going through similar battles.
As the Michigan coordinator for the Firefighter Cancer Support Network (FCSN), he has raised money for the national nonprofit and mentored many firefighters diagnosed with cancer.
“When you find out you have cancer, you automatically think you are going to die,” he said. “But we set you up with mentors to say I’ve had it and I’ve beat it.”
Vosburgh, 59, certainly knows cancer is not a death sentence. His brother Ralph, who is also a firefighter for Niles Township, is a survivor of prostate cancer.
Their father, Ralph Sr., also survived prostate cancer before he died from bone cancer in 2007. He was was a founding member of the Niles Township Fire Department and served for 50 years.
“It’s definitely affected our family real close,” Bruce said.
Vosburgh, who has been a part of FCSN for three years, is organizing a fundraiser banquet and silent auction Nov. 6 at 6 p.m. at the Bell Building in Niles. All proceeds of the event will benefit FCSN.
According to Vosburgh, the FCSN serves two main purposes — to educate the firefighters on what causes cancer and how to prevent it, and to provide support to the firefighters who contract cancer and their families.
A 2006 study done by the University of Cincinnati’s environmental health department found that firefighters are twice as likely to develop testicular cancer and have higher rates of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and prostate cancer than people in other professions.
The study blames firefighters’ exposure to carcinogens as a key factor in the increased likelihood of developing different cancers.
Vosburgh agrees with the study.
“A lot of the byproducts of fires are known carcinogens,” he said. “The air gets inside our suits and gear. After you come out of a house fire, you smell the smoke for a week. It just permeates you.”
Despite the risks, the veteran fireman never second guesses his commitment to his job.
“It’s hard to explain but when you can help somebody, you get a good feeling,” Vosburgh said. “What goes around comes around, and it really does. If you help somebody else, they will be there to help you.”
He also says being a firefighter makes him a member of a “nationwide brotherhood,” which is why he wants to help FCSN.
“We have each other’s backs,” he said.
Tickets for the Nov. 6 fundraiser banquet cost $20 in advance or $25 at the door. To find out the many locations where tickets can be purchased, contact Vosburgh at bvosburgh@FCSN.net.