Carbondale’s firefighters have suited up to bring new attention to the fight against cancer.
On Dec. 2, members of Carbondale’s International Association of Firefighters Local 1961 presented a check for $1,200 to the SIH Foundation to support its Cancer Care Patient Support Fund, which helps cancer patients deal with some of the hidden costs of treatment including food, hotel stays and gas prices.
Clad in pink t-shirts, the firefighters also welcomed a special guest who arrived at Station No. 2 with a fire engine escort: Krysty Gray, a secretary in the Carbondale city attorney’s office.
Gray, a breast cancer survivor, tearfully reflected on having been clear of the disease for exactly one year and detailed the many costs that accumulated as she traveled back and forth to St. Louis at least 50 times for treatment. Those trips included 17 chemotherapy treatments, 33 radiation treatments and a handful of surgeries, she said.
“Just spending the night, when you drive up, you have to eat, you have to have gas, you have to have a motel,” Gray said. “I always take someone with me, and they need to eat. I bet in a year and a half, it’s probably cost me about $7,000. I’m just grateful I had the money, but it’s a hardship for everyone involved.”
Tanna Morgan, director of the SIH Foundation, said those costs often go under the radar, but the Cancer Care Patient Support Fund has helped those battling the disease buy gas cards to make travel to treatments more affordable. Sometimes, the fund can even help with more.
“We’ve actually been able to help with prescription costs and also with giving food to people who otherwise wouldn’t have anything to eat because they’re paying for their prescriptions,” Morgan said.
Firefighter Rob Miller, also the president of Local 1961, said the idea to make a donation in Gray’s honor came from fellow firefighter Matt Wozniak, who brought the idea to a union meeting. Miller said firefighters also asked the chief for permission to produce 160 pink t-shirts — and all of them sold quickly.
Miller anticipates similar efforts in future years.
“Initially it was all for Krysty, but in the past and present there have been other city employees this has happened to to open this up as an annual event,” Miller said. “There may be someone like Krysty in the future who we can do the same thing for.”