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I grew up in a cult.

As a pre-teen I had to preach door-to-door, tracking my hours in some kind of ethereal tally; a child in a skirt with a bible and a knack for choosing empty houses [insert knock knock joke here]. I was mandated to hit up strangers’ doors in an unmotivated effort of conversion but never allowed to speak directly to the congregation behind the doors of the church itself - not because I was a child, but because I was a girl. I could only speak indirectly through skits with other girls, facing each other in mock scenarios; never at the crowd, and certainly not in an attempt to teach a man or a boy. I was supposed to be a 17-year old wife and mother, a missionary, a cleaner, or, if I was really ambitious and shockingly independent, a part time flight attendant.

I may have gotten out, but I am a bit of a preacher these days, trading in stories of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (who refused to bow to the king, poetically), for tales of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons on a soapbox of my very own. Knocking on doors with a lifesaving message of decon. 

The irony is not lost on me. 


Sootsoap was named on a drive to my husband’s family cottage in 2017. I had been researching for only a few months at that point, with no product in-hand, or even lab partner on the horizon. In spite of that, I saw the product, the business, and the Brand that day as clearly as I saw the road ahead. Sitting on one leg under my bum, shoes buried somewhere under my purse on the floor, I was bouncing up and down with excitement. I have never felt so passionate and driven about achieving a dream. (My husband is not as excitable as I am, but lets me ramble on even if he has no idea what I’m talking about. He’s very supportive that way). Fast forward to what will be 6 years this spring and here I still stand - confidently, loudly, as a woman, on my soapbox, preaching about decon to whoever will listen.


January was Firefighter Cancer Awareness Month - a month when my soapbox had much more company. Firefighters, charitable organizations, support networks, departments and businesses were all pulling up boxes and crates and stepping on bumpers to spread the gospel. We know the stats. Departments know the stats. The government knows the stats. The W.H.O. knows the stats. Hell, even Mark Ruffalo knows the stats

Let's call this January the month we all accepted the stats and February the month we start moving past them.

In February we start initiating protocol. In February we prioritize budgets for decontamination. In February we fight for the Standards to require proper decon and for Departments and Companies alike to adhere to them. In February we start CHANGING the damn stats. In February, we decon like our lives depend on it.


Knock knock.

Cancer is the leading cause of line-of-duty death for firefighters. 
It is a risk that can be mitigated. 
You can reduce the risk.

So pull up a chair, ‘cause I have a story for you.

K. Dee Howard

Please take a moment to explore the Firefighter Cancer Support Network's Firefighter Cancer Awareness Month online hub and the wealth of information found there. Digest, Share, Set Protocols. And then DECON LIKE YOUR LIFE DEPENDS ON IT.


This fight is for the next ones. Failure is not an option. #FCSN #FFCAM

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