FF Battling Cancer Gets Help From Around the Globe
Seacoast Daily News via YellowBrix
May 02, 2010
PORTSMOUTH, VA – The Portsmouth Fire Department set out to raise money for one of their own who is fighting cancer while raising three small children by selling $5 fire helmet decals and $10 vehicle decals. The effort is helping Sarah and Matthew Fox pay their bills while Sarah, a 38-year-old paramedic and firefighter, battles cancer, which has spread from her breast to her spine and femur and now threatens her life.
Sarah’s story, featured in the April 10 Portsmouth Herald, spread quicker than a five-alarm fire. Linked to firefighter Web sites and passed along through social media networks, the decals have been shipped to all corners of the country and as far away as Ireland.
“It started right after the article,” said Portsmouth firefighter Russ Osgood. “Texas, Florida, Colorado, Oregon …; They’re literally all over the U.S. and beyond.”
More than 2,500 people have become “fans” of the Portsmouth Firefighters Charitable Association, the nonprofit raising funds. Fans are from as far away as Australia, France, Italy, Afghanistan and Argentina.
Fire departments throughout the nation have sent in orders and Osgood said they’ve already sold out twice.
Locally, let’s just say there hasn’t been a fire or emergency response on the Seacoast that hasn’t had the spirit of Sarah on scene. Meanwhile, civilian vehicles throughout the state have also donned the decal proudly. As of this week, more than $15,000 has been raised in less than a month.
“There’s a ton of people that don’t even know her,” Osgood said. “But her story is just overwhelming. It’s heart-wrenching. People see it and want to help.”
On Oct. 9, 2007, Sarah was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer — 12 hours before she gave birth to the couple’s second and third children, twins Anika and Alexander. They hoped a double mastectomy and chemotherapy would clear it up. For a while it looked like it had, as she was back on the force less than a year later.
But last November, what Sarah thought was a groin pull was instead a large tumor that had attached to her left femur. Unwilling to remove it and risk it spreading quicker, doctors attached a metal rod to her leg bone to try to prevent a break. Meanwhile, the cancer is spreading aggressively. The spots that were just spots on her vertebrae when she had an MRI a couple months ago have become tumors. She also has a tumor on her right femur. A second round of radiation has started to treat the tumors and chemotherapy will begin in mid-May.
Doctors have given Sarah a year to live, maybe more, maybe less, but not near enough for a mother of two 2½-year-olds and a 7-year-old. Sarah is, hopefully, a few formalities away from receiving a new, promising medication under Compassionate Use approval from the Food and Drug Administration. It’s not a cure, but it certainly could give her more time to be a mom.
The firefighters have only just begun. Events are planned throughout the summer to raise more funds for the family. The couple, who live in Canterbury, owns a small business there, Fox Country Smokehouse, which has been difficult to devote time to during Sarah’s ordeal. The family plans to use the money to continue to make their mortgage payments and maintain a bit of normalcy for their children.
The first event is Thursday, May 6, “Sarah’s Night” at The 401 Tavern in Hampton at 6 p.m. “There’s so many great ideas out there,” Osgood said. “We’ve got $15,000 to this point, but it’s short of what they need. We don’t have a specific goal …; but we’ve got to fill the gap and help them through this tough time.”
Sarah said they’re not surprised by the support of her fellow firefighters, family, friends and the communities of Portsmouth and Canterbury. They have felt that love and compassion before. All helped the family tremendously during the first bout with cancer — albeit in a much less public way. But to see the story reach all over the globe and to see the decals throughout the country, state and the Seacoast is truly incredible.
“We are well aware that cancer is a worldwide issue,” Sarah said. “But it is truly hard to fathom that my family and I are at the center of this story. The extent of the support reaffirms that compassion and human goodness are widespread.”
How to help
To make a donation to the Fox family, send a check payable to “Portsmouth Firefighters Charitable Association” to Portsmouth Fire Station 1, 170 Court St., Portsmouth, NH 03801. To buy a helmet or vehicle sticker, go to any city fire station. Helmet stickers are $5 and vehicle stickers are $10. For more information, to donate or track the ongoing list of events, go to www.pffca.org. To read more about Fox’s battle with cancer and get regular updates on her health, go to www.mylifeline.org/sarahfox.