Advertisement
  1. Archive

In Tampa, rappel down a building to combat lung cancer

Jillian Miller, 29, died of lung cancer in May 2013. She told her mom, Ros, she didn't want a walk in her honor. "Go big or go home, she told me," said Ros Miller , 59, of Tampa. On Dec. 13, Ros's lung cancer research charity, Jillian's Dream, will host their initial fundraiser a chance to rappel down a 13-story building at Tampa's Rocky Point.
Published Dec. 4, 2014

The ropes coordinator had to push Ros Miller's feet off the roof's edge of the 15-story Fort Lauderdale building just to get her started rappeling downward.

"It was such a shock," laughed the 59-year-old mother of three from Tampa. "She told me to let go of one hand and then the other. I was just hanging there by my harness."

She was almost halfway down before the beauty and gravity of what she was doing dawned on her.

"On one side, I could see the ocean at Fort Lauderdale Beach; on the other side I could see the city. It was gorgeous," Miller said.

Ninety people may have that same experience on Dec. 13, when Miller's organization, Jillian's Dream, hosts a rappel down the Island Center at Tampa's Rocky Point to raise money for lung cancer research in honor of Miller's daughter, Jillian, a registered nurse who succumbed to the disease in May 2013. Rappelers need to raise or donate $1,500 to go to Uniting Against Lung Cancer in order to qualify.

"We did the Susan G. Komen 3-Day. I walked and she was on medical staff," Miller said. "She told me she didn't want a walk. She wanted something creative. She said, 'Go big or go home.' "

Jillian Miller wasn't feeling particularly ill when she noticed her lymph node was still swollen a month after she'd had a cold. As a nurse, she thought it best to have it checked out in Miami, where she was living and working at the time. About a month after she began to look into her condition, she got some hard news at Tampa's H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center: She had Stage 4 lung cancer that had spread to some of her bones and organs.

"When she was being treated in the thoracic cancer center, she didn't like the looks people would give her," Ros said. "People think that because you have lung cancer, you brought it on yourself."

Jillian had never smoked, and neither did her parents. And even though both her paternal grandparents were smokers who eventually died of cancer, they were never allowed to smoke in her presence.

"Lung cancer can happen to anyone," Ros said.

Her daughter died one month after her 29th birthday, only 10 months after being diagnosed. Doctors went for aggressive treatments and clinical trials for Jillian Miller because of her youth and relative health before diagnosis. She moved back home to Tampa to be treated, staying in her old room with the two purple walls and dream catchers hung everywhere.

"She absolutely loved dream catchers, so it was natural to call the group Jillian's Dream," Miller said.

The dream was two-fold: to raise money for lung cancer research and remove the stigma from the disease.

More than 156,000 people died of lung cancer in 2011, nearly quadruple the number killed by breast cancer in the same period, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Breast cancer (organizations) have done a fabulous job over the past 60 years. They have taken the Estee Lauder pink ribbon and made it a brand that raises billions," Miller said. "Lung cancer, we've only been at it for 15 years. We've got a long way to go."

She felt she needed to do something after her daughter's death, but Miller didn't have any idea where to begin. On the Internet, she found Over the Edge USA, a company that specializes in setting up rappeling events for non-profits and charities. Since its beginning in Canada 10 years ago, Over the Edge has done 500 events to support non-profits — 100 in just the last year, said Neil Atkinson, the company's business development manager.

"We require charities that want to work with us to have a board that is fully engaged, be able to make a time commitment of 400 to 500 hours over an eight- to 12-month period for planning purposes, and have the ability to take on new concepts," Atkinson said.

Once a charity is vetted, licensed and approved, it's up to them to promote and raise funds for their cause. Over The Edge provides the trained professionals, equipment and insurance to make the event possible.

Miller said she hopes that rappeling down the building will be a enough of a draw to keep donors coming back for years.

"Jillian," she said, "wanted to do something daring and outrageous."

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Firemen and ambulance attendants remove a body from the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, where an explosion ripped the structure during services Sept.15,1963 . Associated Press
    Fifty-six years ago, a bomb blew apart the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, killing four girls and injuring dozens more.
  2. Danielle Harris of Pinellas Park leans against a large photo of Terri Schiavo and her mother, Mary Schindler, during a vigil outside the Woodside Hospice Villas in 2003. Associated Press
    “Terri Schiavo is now a martyr,” one then-state representative said upon learning of her death.
  3. Taylor Bland-Ball, 22, posted this photo and open letter to Judge Thomas Palermo to her Instagram account on September 10, the day after she lost custody of her 4-year-old son Noah McAdams. The boy's parents wanted to treat his leukemia with natural health care remedies instead of chemotherapy. [Instagram] ANASTASIA DAWSON  |  Instagram
    The couple refused chemotherapy for their son, instead seeking alternative treatments including dietary plans, alkaline water and THC and CBD oil treatments
  4. Joe Walsh. [Associated Press]
  5. The U.S. Coast Guard and other agencies have been searching a wide area of ocean between Cape Canaveral and Jacksonville. [Associated Press]
  6. Congressman Charlie Crist (D-St. Petersburg) and Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R-Palm Harbor) recite the Pledge of Allegiance during a Bipartisan Congressional Veterans Advisory Board meeting at the Dunedin Public Library on Monday. [MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE   |   Times]
  7. Priscilla Shirer plays high school principal Olivia Brooks in “Overcomer,” a new film from the Kendrick Brothers. Photo courtesy of Sony/Affirm Films
  8. The men who create the toys received each Christmas season by many children in Polk County are far from being unblemished elves. [Polk County Toys For Tots/Facebook]
  9. Aug. 16• Archive
  10. Actor Danny Masterson arrives at the Youth for Human Rights International Celebrity Benefit in Los Angeles in 2014. He called a lawsuit filed Wednesday against him and Scientology “beyond ridiculous.” Associated Press (2014)
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement