UNION CITY, Ohio — The Union City, Ohio, Fire Department and Rescue was a pretty colorful place Tuesday night when the Pink Heals Tour came to town for a two-hour visit.
Fire Chief Pam Idle, who is also director of nursing at Union City Care Center, made the visit possible and people from around the area were there to help in the cause.
“We are celebrating people with catastrophic illnesses, cancer…whatever,” Idle said, as she took a break from selling raffle tickets at the fire department Tuesday night. “I am trying to raise awareness.”
Pink Heals, Idle explained, is a group of volunteers, mostly firefighters who travel the country offering support to anyone suffering from cancers, survivors or the families who have lost loved ones to cancers.
“They bring three pink fire engines and people sign their names or families sign in memory of those lost,” she said. “The children’s truck is new.”
The Pink Heals Tour has that additional fire engine dedicated to children. Prior to arriving in Union City, they visited the Children’s Hospital at The Ohio State University.
The organization is not for profit.
The sale of t-shirts, a silent auction featuring a gift basket, and games and prizes for children were featured and will benefit someone local, Idle said.
“No profits will be kept,” she added. “It is really to show support for those suffering from cancers or touched their lives.”
Michelle Steen, one of the nurses at Union City Care Center, is the reason Idle planned this visit from the Pink Heals Tour.
“Michelle was diagnosed with Stage IV Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and she recently completed extensive chemotherapy and is considered in remission at this point,” Idle said. “There is a high probability of the cancer returning. Michelle is the reason I scheduled this visit. Michelle has been unable to work since January. She cannot return to work until November, due to her compromised immune system. This would be catastrophic to most of us both emotionally and financially.”
The Pink Heals Tour officials themselves gave away t-shirts to survivors of cancer in attendance.
Idle said tickets from the tour will continue to be sold until the car show on Saturday during State Line Heritage Days. The fire department will also be the scene of a truck and tractor farm show as well as the Kiddie Tractor Pull on Friday during the festival.
Pink Heals Initiative is a community-based health care program to provide visionary leaders with a program that maintains fundraising dollars locally in support of women and their families.
Dave Graybill, founder and president of Pink Heals, said that they have decided that they are targeting people, not disease.
“Although our main focus is the fight against cancer, we are here to serve those in need,” he said. “Our goal is to protect the women in our lives; mothers, wives, daughters, who need our help regardless of their battle. This is a re-branding and consolidation of the age-old duty of men, to protect our women. This movement to celebrate women by wearing her color and then helping them locally with their battle against all cancer and other health issues cannot be ignored.”
He went on, “We are setting the example by truly being a non-profit; we are providing an environment through the pink fire trucks that is about love and hope first and about money second. Our Pink Fire Trucks inspire; they bring the feel of love and caring right to the doorstep of those in need of it most. In our program, we share our Trucks for free with communities, so they can raise money and give it to organizations that help their women and their family. Communities that hear our message are using our program and building a pink fire truck every three weeks around the World. Our program is the fastest growing support effort in the country; that is our movement. (Pink Heals ‘Cares Enough to Wear Pink’).”
The organization does not solicit donations, and neither do the chapters, he said.
Steen, for whom the tour was originally intended, was at the fire department Tuesday night. So was another former co-worker, Michelle Farmer. Both have been diagnosed with cancer.
Steen, the former Michelle Dillon, was diagnosed in January.
A large lump on her neck is what spurred her to seek medical attention. So she went to the doctor and was told it was blocked lymph node.
“I couldn’t swallow so they did a biopsy,” she said. “They cut out six lymph nodes and the salivary gland in my neck. I had chemo at Reid Hospital. They’re wonderful over there. It’s not curable but controllable. I’m feeling good right now.”
She went on to say, “Pam [Idle] is the best boss and friend. I don’t even know what to say about her. You want her to be in your corner. She calls, talks, texts, visits and brings me flowers. This [the tour] was a surprise for me until today.”
Steen has two children, Lisa Beanblossom and David Steen, and two stepchildren, David and Jesse Riley. There are also seven grandchildren, and all but one were there Tuesday night.
A 1984 graduate of Mississinawa Valley High School, Steen has worked at Union City Care Center for 14 years. She is the daughter of Roy Steen of Tennessee and the late Jean Steen.
Farmer was in her first stage of breast cancer when she was diagnosed in March.
“My mom had breast cancer and I have been through in my self-examinations,” Farmer said. “I have a poly-cystic disease and was used to cysts. This one felt hard and different. I went to the doctor in March, had a mammogram and ultrasound and they found a mass. On March 26, I had a lumpectomy and they removed the cancer. Two weeks later, they found it came back and in April they took more tissue out of my axillary lymph node in my arm and it did not travel anywhere else.”
Farmer said she was told that the cancer that was in her body had been growing for five years.
“I am doing chemo as a preventative and still have microscopic cancer cells in there,” she said. “Now it’s wait and see.”
She goes for her third treatment on Monday.
“I have 12 more treatments in August, then I go once a week for three months,” Farmer said. “After the chemo, they will start radiation for four or five months. It’s been a rough couple of weeks. I also have Crohn’s Disease and that and the chemo aggravate each other.”
She said her aunt, Pat Martin, who also has Crohn’s, has been an inspiration to her and was also at the tour Tuesday evening.
Farmer, who had been a nursing assistant at Union City Care Center, will turn 40 on Aug. 1. She is the daughter of Carolyn Doddridge and the late Bill Doddridge.
She and husband Wayne F. Farmer have been married for 16 years and have a son, Jacob.
Linda Moody can be reached by calling direct at 569-4315. Be her friend on Facebook by searching her name. For more features online, go to advocate360.org or “like” The Daily Advocate on Facebook by searching Advocate360