By Joel Hillan

DENVER (CBS4) – Hundreds of climbers ascended the 1,098 stairs, or 56 floors, of Denver’s tallest skyscraper, the Republic Plaza, to raise money for the American Lung Association. They also raised awareness for the more than 600,000 Coloradans who suffer from lung disease.

(credit: CBS)

“I’m a fighter,” said one climber Michelle Alarid. “The whole reason I’m here. I have been fighting this since 2015.”

That was the year Michelle was diagnosed with lung cancer.

CBS4’s Joel Hillan interviews Michelle Alarid. (credit: CBS)

“I was a non-smoker. I was young, healthy, never would have thought that I would have gotten this and bam, one day I got it.”

This is Michelle’s second major challenge since receiving her diagnosis.

(credit: CBS)

April 23, 2016 she completed the Manitou Incline, just four months after surgery to have a lung removed.

“I did it, and I’m going to do it today as well.”

James Otteman (credit: CBS)

Windsor Severance firefighter James Otteman made the climb for the fourth year. He’s climbing in memory of his grandpa who died of lung cancer before Otteman was born.

“I think about him and wish that I could have met him, and I think about this organization does tobacco cessation programs in schools to hopefully prevent this from happening to future youth,” James said.

(credit: CBS)

Otteman and other firefighters made it to the top carrying nearly 70 pounds of equipment. It is a collection of all the gear they would use when responding to a high rise fire.

Michelle made it to the top as well, and although it was a challenge, she sees it as a way to truly live.

“Don’t waste a moment. Don’t sweat over the small stuff. I know that’s a cliché, but really, don’t. It’s not worth it. Worry about the things that you can deal with and just enjoy life because you don’t know, tomorrow’s not a guarantee,” Michelle said.

Joel Hillan

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