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Firefighters help fight cancer
Dozens of local firefighters, including six from Bremerton and seven from Central Kitsap, were among 1,473 participants from all over the world in last Sunday’s Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s 22nd Annual Scott Firefighter Stair Climb in Seattle.
Bremerton firefighter Brian Marceau led the local pack, climbing 69 flights of stairs — that’s 788 feet of vertical elevation and 1,311 steps while wearing 50 pounds of bunker gear — in 16 minutes and 31 seconds. Apparently his heartbeat was racing faster than his feet because it was measured at 191 beats per minute shortly after he crossed the finish line.
“I was dying,” he joked later. “That was my eighth time and that was the worst I’ve ever felt at the top. I was completely spent. Every year it gets tougher and tougher.”
Kevin Bonsell, who works on the same Bremerton crew as Marceau, agrees.
“It feels like every part of your cardiovascular system is going to collapse,” he said. “Everything hurts. Your lungs can’t get enough air and your heart feels like it is going to jump out of your chest.”
Sunday’s event marked Bonsell’s third climb and he finished in 17 minutes and 45 seconds. The pain and fatigue, though, is temporary and worthwhile considering the cause.
“Every flight they have pictures of kids and adults who have battled leukemia, so that’s a big encouragement,” Bosnell said. “What we’re going through — 17 minutes going through some pain to get to the top — is nothing compared to what those individuals have gone through in their fight.”
For one Bremerton firefighter, that sentiment rings especially true. Rob Smith’s son Hunter was diagnosed with leukemia in 2008 when he was just two and a half years old. After three years of treatment at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital, Hunter finished treatment cancer free in January of 2012.
“Ever since then he’s been doing awesome,” Smith said. “It was once a month, but now he goes twice a month for blood work tests. So, we keep hoping for good numbers when he gets his blood work, but he’s doing awesome.
Smith participated in the Seattle stair climb for the first time following his son’s diagnosis.
“It’s funny, but before he got diagnosed I worked at a different fire department and every year I always found a reason or excuse not do it,” he said. “Then it hit home how important it is for him and everybody else that deals with blood cancers.”
Smith finished this year’s climb in 25 minutes and 21 seconds.
“I didn’t reach my goal, but at least I made it to the top,” he said.
Waiting for him there at the finish line were Hunter, who was the event’s honorary patient in 2010, and his wife, Jaymi.
“This year’s 25 minutes of pain going up the stairs is nothing compared to what he and all the kids have to go through,” Smith said. “There’s two years of treatment minimum; he had to go through three years and some go longer.”
Hunter went through hundreds of treatments, had a port in his chest and endured countless pokes.
“Seeing everything he’s gone through and all the times I wished it could have been me having the pokes; you don’t want anything bad to happen to your kids. He’s matured more than a 6 year old should. I always say he’s 6 going on 16 … I hate the word cancer. Even before, but especially since Hunter got sick and had to go through three years of treatment.”
This year’s stair climb raised more than $1 million for the fight against cancer allowed a bunch of firefighters to have “fun” in the process. When asked if anything compares to the world’s biggest firefighter stair climb, Bonsell was stumped.
“There’s nothing I can think of that compares to pushing your body that hard and that fast,” he said. “I don’t know if there’s any sporting event that’s like it.”
Bremerton Fire Department
1. Brian Marceau: 16:31
2. Kevin Bonsell: 17:45
3. Rich Railsback: 18:29
4. Benny Cammarata: 20:21
5. Jeremy Dixon: 21:05
6. Rob Smith: 25:21
Central Kitsap Fire
1. David Mackovjak: 20:45
2. Ryan Orseth: 21:04
3. Mickey Cotter: 21:42
4. Kyle Good: 23:37
5. Doug Bekenyi: 29:27
6. Josh Buehrer: 31:19
7. Pat Busby: 43:04
8. Linda Jenkins: 1:00:03