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Cancer warning goes to first responders
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Firemen gathered from Ripon and Manteca at the Mistlin Sports Park Monday morning to honor the efforts of a former San Diego fireman who has made a personal pilgrimage to fire stations across the country delivering his hope for a cancer cure among firefighters and other first responders. - photo by GLENN KAHL
RIPON - Ripon’s Mistlin Park was the scene Monday morning for the annual kickoff for a mission of honor and hope for a cancer cure for firefighters that is taking a single engine 20,000 miles zigzagging across the U.S. and Canada.

The “Code 3 for a Cure” Foundation is headed by three-time cancer survivor and event founder Lorenzo Abundiz who spoke to Ripon and Manteca firefighters on the need to stay alert to their physical conditions and to be aware of the cancer warning signs developing from their profession.

Abundiz and his team will share their personal survivor stories and further encourage early cancer screening as other firefighter cancer survivors across the country will be waiting to climb aboard the Code 3 fire engine.

Along the way they will collect the names of those firefighters, active and retired, who have succumbed to cancer. At the end of their journey, the names will be read off in a fire bell ceremony to honor and to remember those brave men and women who paved the way – through their service and sacrifice – to the use of safer equipment and procedures used by firefighters today.

“No matter what you do you will be exposed to it (cancer),” he told firefighters. “Look at me,” Abundiz said. “I have had three different kinds of cancer. I am only here today because I caught it early – and attitude means everything.”

Riding on the Code 3 truck with Abundiz was Bob Silverthorne with the Salt Lake City, Utah Fire Department heavy equipment response team, who said he discovered a lump in his armpit just a week after Abundiz had gone through town several years ago. He had it checked and discovered he had Hodgkin’s disease.

He said he is approaching an anniversary date May 16 of his remission asking those listening to him to remember him in their prayers.

While the engine driving across country does not carry water in its tanks, it will stop to offer basic first-aid if it were to come upon a collision or other obvious emergency – team members saying they couldn’t just drive by in the emergency response vehicle.

The Code 3 movement is using its fourth fire engine that was provided by manufacturer Sutphen Corporation. It is the same firm that built a new truck two years ago for the Manteca Fire Department. Also two years ago Ripon Fire Chief Dennis Bitters, a member of the Code 3 board of directors, presented the San Diego-based firefighters’ team with a silver memorial fire bell when they kicked off that year’s cross country mission in Los Angeles in 2009.

For those wishing to offer support for the movement, Code 3 for a Cure can be reached through its website Celebrities supporting the movement in past years include William Shatner, Anthony Robbins, Richard Thomas and Celine Dion.