RON AND DON

Hold fast: Olympia firefighter battles cancer with dad’s words

Feb 28, 2017, 5:43 AM
hold fast...
Jim Brown's knuckle tattoos spell "Hold Fast" in honor of his father. (Lauren Padgett, KIRO Radio)
(Lauren Padgett, KIRO Radio)

Jim Brown has the words “Hold Fast” tattooed across his knuckles. He got them in honor of his father, after his passing in 2011. But the words inspired by his father would soon serve him in greater ways than he initially realized.

“He was a career Coast Guard, Navy guy,” Brown told KIRO Radio’s Ron and Don Show. “It’s an old nautical term – ‘Hold fast the line.’ For me, it means to persevere and to grit it out. When I got it, after my dad passed away, it was my daily reminder to persevere and keep my chin up and keep fighting.”

Ron and Don: From divorce to homelessness in Seattle

Fast forward to May 2015 when Brown, a captain with the Olympia Fire Department, was diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer. He blogged about his experience, and a photo of his “Hold Fast” tattoos made its way through the internet. People were inspired by the words. They became his battle cry. And he needed it.

“You go from your biggest concern being if you are going to get your workout in today, or getting your kids to their soccer practice, to somebody telling you if you don’t get into treatment right away you might have 3-6 months to live,” Brown said. “It’s a pretty big punch in the face.”

“The world doesn’t stop because you get cancer,” he said. “I have three daughters, a wife, and a career. You throw this on top of it.”

Hold fast: Fighting lung cancer stigma

Brown received treatment through the Cancer Care Alliance in Seattle. He now works with the Addario Lung Cancer Foundation.

“One of the things lung cancer really suffers from is a stigma,” Brown said. “I never smoked. A lot of people diagnosed with lung cancer never smoked. One of the goals of the Addario Lung Cancer Foundation is changing the face of lung cancer and helping remove that stigma. Research and funding takes a hit because of that stigma. People hear you have lung cancer, they think you smoked and you deserve that.”

Instead, Brown suspects that his cancer came from his career fighting fires.

“There’s so many carcinogens in construction materials these days,” he said, noting that firefighters wear a lot of gear when battling a blaze.

That gear includes masks, gloves and heavy clothing.

“Carcinogens can still get through dermally,” Brown said. “One thing is when you are fighting a fire, your body temperature goes up and the absorption rate for dermal carcinogens is exponentially increased. No matter how we try to protect ourselves there’s always an opportunity to be exposed to those hazardous materials.”

“You just don’t know what fire, or what carcinogen it was you were exposed to,” he said. “I don’t think I made mistakes. It’s just part of the job that I didn’t realize was part of the job in the early days. You don’t factor cancer into the risks of the job.”

But he still works as an Olympia firefighter. And he is still a father. And that’s because of his motto: hold fast.

“Hopefully, for a long time,” he said. “I have three daughters. I plan on seeing some graduations, some weddings, and some grand-babies.”

Ron and Don

...
KIRO Newsradio Newsdesk

Ron and Don’s last show on KIRO Radio

Last night was Ron and Don’s last show on KIRO Radio.
3 years ago
Kelly Herzberg in her natural habitat. (Photo by Rachel Belle)...
Rachel Belle

In Seattle, a personal shopper and stylist who only shops at thrift stores

If you think you can't afford a personal stylist, head to the thrift store with Sweet Kelly Anne Styling's Kelly Herzberg who will pull hundreds of pieces for you to try on.
3 years ago
Viaduct waterfront...
Ron Upshaw

What do we do with the waterfront after the viaduct is gone?

After the viaduct is taken down, we'll be left with a choice: What do we do with one of the most beautiful waterfronts in the country?
3 years ago
(MyNorthwest)...
Ron Upshaw

Shower Thoughts: Ichiro can give Mariners fans something to root for

Rumor has it that Ichiro might make a comeback next year, and I for one welcome it.
3 years ago
Border wall...
Ron Upshaw

Trying to figure out why people want Trump’s border wall

A little over 40 percent of Americans now support the idea of a border wall, but what is it about it that seems so attractive?
3 years ago
Dan McCartney, Pierce County Sheriff...
Don O'Neill

Why you could hear kids’ voices on Pierce County Sheriff radios Monday night

Sometimes, "gone but not forgotten" isn't always how slain officers are remembered. But in Pierce County, a special effort is being made to commemorate a fallen deputy.
3 years ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
...

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]
...

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]
...

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
...
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
Hold fast: Olympia firefighter battles cancer with dad’s words