My Life after Firefighting: What I’ve Learned

Note to My Readers:  This post is the fourth and final in a series that Robin Lawson has written for this blog.  I want to thank her for her courage is sharing her story about her fire service career that was cut far too short because of breast cancer.  It has been an honor and a pleasure to lend her this space for her saga.

By:  Robin Lawson with Robert AvsecCancer X-Out Symbol

I can say this:  I am healthy, retired, fortunate to have health insurance and happy.  I may not be rich financially, but I’m richly blessed.  Although I won my disability case and was able to retire, my life after firefighting has been no more challenging than everyone else’s these days.  We all encounter issues and situations in our everyday lives.

That said… sometimes I struggle every day to find a purpose—my purpose—in life and what I can give back, learn from, and try to change to be a better person than I was the day before.  I get emotional highs and lows and wonder what my God has planned for me next.  I still take one day at a time, count my blessings and stay busy with my children and granddaughter, Lily.  I have my good health, a roof over my head, food in my kitchen and try to see the good in people.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Let's keeping fighting to find a cure!

Let’s keeping fighting to find a cure!

I stop and think sometimes about how I treat and communicate to people and my family and reflect back if I could have said or did something differently.  I am straight forward and sometimes that gets me in trouble. I try to do my best and go the extra mile with patience and wonder did I make a difference in someone else’s life for the good.  Sure, I have my “down” days and get irritated with people and upset at situations beyond my control, but try real hard to not let it ruin my day.5 year survival rate

I can appreciate the fact that before my beautiful, fun, and sweet mother passed away she knew I won my case!  She and my father and family were there all those years as well.  They were also witness to my many emotional ups and downs and my crazy and insane days when I thought I might “lose it” and have a nervous breakdown.  (I am sure they would say I did a couple of times).

Sometimes, when something consumes us so much—as did my illnesses and my legal struggles— we lose a peaceful, normal sense within us.  To this day, I still have a very hard time talking about my breast cancer diagnosis, my various surgeries, all the doctors and those many life moments.  Many times I’ve seen the “Grim Reaper” looking around the corner at me and I don’t wish to see him again any time soon.  The thought of death is still very scary to me and one of things I deal with every day.

ACS Relay for Life Logo

According to the American Cancer Society, 1 in 8 women in the USA will experience breast cancer in their lifetime. Let’s make sure we continue to support the necessary research to put cancer in the same box as polio,

 

My husband and I divorced after ten years of marriage, and although I love him and care for him very much, we both agreed it was for the best. I had to do a “short sale” on my beautiful home before I could move to California, but I wanted to get to know my oldest son, whom I’d give up at birth, and to meet my only grandson.  (Both of whom I love so very much and miss!).

During my latest surgery I had a salivary gland in my neck removed that had a blockage.  Who’d have thought you could a blockage there, right?  So I added another scar to my battle wounds.  I do know for sure I don’t want any more surgeries!

I am reading more about what a real problem my hypothyroidism can be.  Earlier, in my first post, I wrote that it could be managed and boy was I mistaken!  I am learning more about the effects that disease every day and learning how to deal with it has been another challenge for sure. (Anyone who’s dealing with an autoimmune disease knows what I’m talking about).

These days I’m better informed and learning more and more everyday about me and my health.  I can never express enough gratitude to all the intelligent, smart, “die hard” medical and legal people who don’t take “no” for an answer.

Thinking back on my 14 years with the Las Vegas Fire Department as a Firefighter/EMT-I, I Cancer Global Killerrealize that it was one of the most challenging, strength finding, and courageous things I’ve ever done in my life.  I am a proud retiree and feel truly blessed.  A good and wise friend told me, “that was another life; we all have many other lives.”  I think I really understand that now and will cherish it.

For me, part of this “next life” is trying to figure out how my experiences can help others who find themselves in similar straits.  I don’t have a college degree and I’m not a expert at any one particular thing, but I now know a lot about many things.   What I can say…there’s no quit in this girl!

So my life after firefighting is an adventure with ups and downs and I’m still a “work in progress.”  Which means, that like the rest of you, until I win the Mega Million lottery—and can travel to all the beautiful places this earth has to show us—I will have to be content in the fact that I try to do my best everyday.  And be better than I was the day before.

Our Mission The Fire Fighter Cancer Foundation: Working to extinguish fire fighter cancer.

Our Mission
The Fire Fighter Cancer Foundation:
Working to extinguish fire fighter cancer. Click on the logo to visit the website.

My parting thoughts for all of you are:  Find the good in everyone, help those that need help as a much as you can, and remember everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.  Don’t wait for a life-threatening illness to come along and force you to “smell the roses.”

Oh, I almost forgot…sharing my story with you would not have been possible without the guidance and direction—and wonderful editing of my “shaky” prose—of Robert Avsec.  After we became connections on LinkedIn and he learned of my story, he was the one who contacted me and encouraged me to share that story with you through this venue.  I hope that his efforts have been worth it.  Thank you Robert!

See Post #1 Life after Firefighting

See Post #2 Life After Firefighting: It’s a Matter of Time

See Post #3 Life After Firefighting: The Financial and Social Impacts

About the Author

2013-09-25 08.09.31Robin Lawson medically retired from the Las Vegas (NV) Fire Department in 2006 after 14 years on the job.  She is a two-time breast cancer survivor and the first woman firefighter in the USA to win a breast cancer worker’s compensation case related to the job of a firefighter following a six-year journey through the legal system in Nevada.

Ms. Lawson now makes her home in the Orange County, California area and works to help educate firefighters, particularly women, on the dangers of cancer on the job.

About Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer

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Battalion Chief (Ret.) Robert Avsec served with the men and women of the Chesterfield County (VA) Fire and EMS Department for 26 years. He’s now using his acquired knowledge, skills, and experiences as a freelance writer for FireRescue1.com and as the “blogger in chief” for this blog. Chief Avsec makes his home in Cross Lanes, WV. Contact him via e-mail, rpa1157@gmail.com.