Pink fire trucks raise cancer awareness

The four pink fire trucks coming to Wichita this week are all about raising awareness, said retired Sedgwick County firefighter Richard Janne.

Janne is the president of the Wichita area chapter of the Guardians of the Ribbon Inc.-Pink Heals Tour. He said the mission of the trucks and the volunteers who ride them is to surround women fighting cancer with love, hope and awareness.

"When my wife first got diagnosed with cancer, we drove up to Kansas City while she was still in the middle of radiation to see these trucks when they came through," Janne said. "And when I saw the emotions and smile on my wife's face, I thought this is something I want to be part of."

From 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, the Wichita area chapter of the Guardians of the Ribbon is hosting its national "Pink Heals Tour," at Kennedy Plaza in front of Century II.

Cancer survivors and loved ones of people who have fought cancer are invited to sign the trucks as part of a traveling memorial.

The trucks also will be at City Hall from 7 to 10 a.m. Tuesday and volunteers with the group will attend the Wichita City Council meeting, where Tuesday is expected to be officially proclaimed "Turn Wichita Pink" day.

The trucks will show up in Haysville and Newton for home visits to women battling cancer who are too weak to turn out at the public stops to see them.

"We are spreading love and hope," says Nicki Janne, who was diagnosed with breast cancer on Jan. 14, 2010. Her name is now emblazoned on one of the pink trucks. The "Nicki" truck is the Wichita chapter's truck.

"I'm doing well, now," the 53-year-old Janne said.

But she remembers all too well that initial feeling when the diagnosis was first made: fear.

"Your world shuts down for a moment while you process the information," Nicki Janne said. "You see your life flash before you and you think about your grandchildren and loved ones and wonder if you will still be there for them. It makes you rearrange every priority in your life."

The Jannes have since helped form Wichita's chapter, which is part of a national movement.

The group supports all types of cancer relief efforts and focuses on women. The fire trucks are brought to cities so local groups can hold fundraisers to help local cancer survivors and their families with bills and to raise money for research.

"The money for our fund-raisers is kept local," Nicki Janne said. "It goes to the lady next door who needs a wig or who can't go to work to pay the bills or to help women in their fight to raise awareness."

Guardians of the Ribbon, dressed in pink, drive the pink fire trucks. So, it seems fitting for Richard Janne to wear pink.

After all, when his wife lost her hair while undergoing radiation, he shaved his own head and mustache to show his support.

"All my life as a firefighter, I've made numerous calls in life and death situations," he said, "and when my wife got cancer, I looked at it like a firefighter:

"We are on the scene of a cancer attack, and we are going to put this fire out."