MENOMONEE FALLS - Robert Suycott knows the struggle of living with lung disease all too well.
His sister was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in October, so when a coworker suggested his company put a team together to do the Flight for Air Climb to be held on Saturday, March 18, in the U.S. Bank skyscraper, it felt like a sign.
"It just was eerie timing," Suycott said. "I decided it would be a good thing to do."
Suycott will climb 47 floors — that's 1,034 steps — to the top of the building in downtown Milwaukee in honor of all those in his family who suffer from lung disease.
“My mother also had COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease); she was also a smoker," Suycott said. "I was smoker, but I quit when I was in my mid 20s. I could tell I was going to be on the path to something like that. I was coughing all the time, and I was just miserable. I’m so much happier today that I made that decision to continue finding ways to quit than to continue down that path because I would have been absolutely miserable. Seeing so many people in my family who have had pretty significant issues related to, specifically smoking, really has raised my awareness and my own desire to help people to quit.”
Last June, Suycott's 67-year-old sister was told she had pneumonia, but by September, she was coughing so hard, she broke three ribs. Doctors did another x-ray and insisted it was pneumonia, but a CT scan revealed it was far worse.
It was stage 4 lung cancer, and it was everywhere — in her lymph nodes, neck, spine, hip and leg. According to Suycott, she is too weak for chemotherapy.
Suycott's brother also had COPD, was smoker until two years ago, and now only has 38 percent lung capacity; because Suycott smoked chronically 35 years ago, he said he gets bronchitis every year.
With each step he takes on March 18, he hopes it will help bring in awareness and funding for continued lung disease research.
"Historically, we’ve just said well, 'your lungs don’t repair, so there’s nothing we can do for it,' but I think we need to continue to do some research to improve ways to treat the conditions, or find ways to raise awareness and get people to quit smoking," Suycott said. "We need to raise awareness and funds to support research.”
Suycott and 10 of his coworkers will participate in the event at 6:30 a.m.
It's the day before his birthday, so the climb is even more significant.
"I’m hoping to make it to the top and survive," Suycott said.
For more information on the Fight for Air Climb - Milwaukee, call 262-703-4200