Wear it Pink: firefighter joins Pink Firefighters fundraising group after dad affected by breast cancer

A firefighter whose family has been affected by breast cancer is now raising money for and spreading awareness of the condition as part of a group known as The Pink Firefighters.

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Dean, 44, from Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, began his fundraising efforts after several members of his family and extended family were diagnosed with breast cancer. His grandma, Edith, was diagnosed with the condition and underwent a mastectomy, but died from breast cancer aged just 42 in 1959. Edith’s son and Dean’s father, David, was also diagnosed with stage two breast cancer, in 2004, at the age of 60.

He found a lump the size of a two pence coin under his nipple, with the nipple beginning to draw in. Dean said that at first, his dad didn’t do anything about it as he was “completely unaware” of male breast cancer.

The Pink Firefighters raise awareness of and fundraise for breast cancerThe Pink Firefighters raise awareness of and fundraise for breast cancer
The Pink Firefighters raise awareness of and fundraise for breast cancer

But shortly after finding the lump he came across an article in a newspaper about breast cancer, and at the very end of the article it mentioned male breast cancer. This “gave him the nudge he needed to visit his GP”, and after being sent for a mammogram and biopsy he was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer.

He underwent a mastectomy and had his lymph nodes removed, and “after swift treatment”, his dad is “now fully recovered”, Dean said. But Dean added that he still “speaks to people to this day who have absolutely no idea men can get breast cancer”.

Dean’s aunty on his mother’s side also died from breast cancer in 2017. His wife’s grandmother also suffered from breast cancer at the age of 40, but recovered and “lived a full life”.

His family ties to breast cancer inspired Dean to join The Pink Firefighters, a growing group of both male and female firefighters from across Europe. It was founded by Vendelin Cliques from France, who decided to start The Pink Firefighters after a close friend decided to have her breasts removed preventively because she was at high risk of breast cancer.

Vendelin created the firefighters’ challenges, which they do in pink to be visible to “talk more about breast cancer that affects wives, mothers, sisters, daughters, friends of firefighters and men”, Dean explained. The Pink Firefighters now have 13 members across Europe, including four people from France, six in England, and one from Germany, Portugal and Czech Republic respectively.

Dean said that with him being a firefighter and his family’s story he “thought it was right” for him to join the group. He added: “I see it as a great opportunity to be able to tell my story and to really raise awareness especially amongst men. I first became aware of the pink firefighters through a friend. I then reached out to them to tell my story and immediately they invited me on board.”

He has now completed the Firefighter Challenge, representing Great Britain with gold medal success at European competitions in France, Germany and Austria. Next year, the group is  hoping to complete the London half marathon in their pink fire kits to raise money for Breast Cancer Now. They hope to have more Pink Firefighters join from around the world, and to complete more challenges to raise awareness of the fight and prevention of breast cancer and other cancers.

Dean said: “I certainly believe our work is taking effect and growing. The pink fire kit immediately draws attention and sparks that initial conversation as to what we are doing.”

The group is trying to “reach as many people as possible”, including letting men know that they can also get breast cancer and to get themselves checked out if they’re worried. Dean said they’re also letting men know “it is nothing to be ashamed of”.

“We will keep on wearing the pink kit and striking up as many conversations as possible. Breast Cancer Now are also helping us share and are doing their own fantastic work,” he added.

On Friday 21 October, the Wear it Pink event takes place, encouraging people to wear pink, raise money to fund life-changing breast cancer research and support, and raise awareness of breast cancer.