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Fighting lung cancer, one step at a time

  • GREENFIELD (Janaury 5, 2013) Deborah Miller of Turners Falls will particpate in the stair climbing event Fight for Air Climb- The Race Up Boston Place to honor the memory of her father Stanley Dobosz who died of lung cancer. Photo by Beth Reynolds

    GREENFIELD (Janaury 5, 2013) Deborah Miller of Turners Falls will particpate in the stair climbing event Fight for Air Climb- The Race Up Boston Place to honor the memory of her father Stanley Dobosz who died of lung cancer. Photo by Beth Reynolds

  • GREENFIELD (Janaury 5, 2013) A collage of old photos of Stanley Dobosz inspires Deborah Miller of Turners Falls who will particpate in the stair climbing event Fight for Air Climb- The Race Up Boston Place to honor the memory of her father Stanley Dobosz who died of lung cancer. Photo by Beth Reynolds

    GREENFIELD (Janaury 5, 2013) A collage of old photos of Stanley Dobosz inspires Deborah Miller of Turners Falls who will particpate in the stair climbing event Fight for Air Climb- The Race Up Boston Place to honor the memory of her father Stanley Dobosz who died of lung cancer. Photo by Beth Reynolds

  • GREENFIELD (Janaury 5, 2013) Deborah Miller of Turners Falls will particpate in the stair climbing event Fight for Air Climb- The Race Up Boston Place to honor the memory of her father Stanley Dobosz who died of lung cancer. Photo by Beth Reynolds
  • GREENFIELD (Janaury 5, 2013) A collage of old photos of Stanley Dobosz inspires Deborah Miller of Turners Falls who will particpate in the stair climbing event Fight for Air Climb- The Race Up Boston Place to honor the memory of her father Stanley Dobosz who died of lung cancer. Photo by Beth Reynolds

TURNERS FALLS — Deborah Miller lost her father when she was 28, and 28 years later she is still finding ways to be closer to him and to raise awareness and money for the fight against the disease that killed him.

Stanley Dobosz, a lifelong resident of Turners Falls, died of lung cancer in 1985 at the age of 69, leaving behind his wife and six children.

Miller, still of Turners Falls, said she has participated in the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life fundraisers for years, but last year found a stronger connection through an event specific to lung cancer.

Miller is now preparing for her second climb up the 41 floors of One Boston Place, in Boston, with an estimated 2,000 others in the culminating event of the Boston Fight for Air Climb fundraiser.

“To find something that’s specifically geared to the cancer that affected your life, I think it just makes it that much more meaningful to take part in,” Miller said. “I know that I never felt as close to my dad as when I did that climb.”

Miller learned of the American Lung Association fundraiser — which last year raised almost $440,000 through the Boston event alone, according to organizers — through a friend.

Stepsisters Jennie Whitman and Nakita Herzig lost their father, Donnie Herzig of Turners Falls, in 2012 after a three-year battle with lung cancer.

Miller learned of the fundraiser through Whitman and immediately decided to join.

Climbing the 789 stairs wasn’t easy — last year’s effort inspired her to lose 30 pounds — but she, Whitman and Herzig are doing it again this year as a team.

“This is corny but when I was training last year — ‘training’ loosely: climbing the stairs — I talked to my father all the time and I talked to Donnie. Just ‘I’m doing this for you, I miss you so much, blah blah, blah,’” Miller said. “So it’s special because, man, it’s so long ago now.”

Miller was alone with her father when he received the diagnosis, inoperable smoker’s lung cancer, five months after he fell ill.

A lifelong and heavy smoker, Stanley was not surprised by the diagnosis, Miller said.

He fell ill in January and doctors at first diagnosed him with back problems and pneumonia, and Miller remembers listening on an extension as a doctor tried to convince her inconsolable mother that her husband was not dying before her eyes.

Miller isn’t certain her father would have survived if his cancer had been diagnosed sooner, with the treatment available at the time, but advances have been made.

As it was, by the time Dubosz was diagnosed it was too late.

He underwent a little chemotherapy and a little radiation but his family and doctors weren’t willing to put him through much more with the grim prognosis.

“If I recall he pretty much shut down anyway. He closed his eyes and rarely opened them again,” Miller said.

Dobosz had only recently retired after years working three jobs at a time, and Miller is sometimes tempted to look at this as a waste.

“You work and then you die, what a terrible life; but he a had a wonderful life,” Miller said. “But he worked hard, was a hard-working man. Raised six kids.”

“I think today he would have lived past 69, for sure,” she said.

Miller joins Whitman and Herzig for the climb Feb. 1. The three are raising funds and climbing as “The Brat Pack” this year, named for a childhood nickname Whitman and Herzig shared.

Whitman, 30, of Boston, said she and Herzig joined the fundraiser three years ago with a friend who lost her mother to lung cancer, and formed their own team in honor of Donnie Herzig this year.

“It’s a good fundraiser, a good way to raise money, raise awareness,” Whitman said.

The American Lung Association aims to advance understanding and treatment of the disease, and all proceeds from the Boston Fight for Air Climb go to lung disease research, advocacy and education.

The team has so far raised $375 of their $1,500 goal, and donations may be made through their page on the American Lung Association website at go.lungne.org/BratPack2014.

You can reach Chris Curtis at: ccurtis@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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