Firefighter fighting lung cancer makes climb for those who died

Firefighter fighting lung cancer makes climb for those who died on 9/11

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LUBBOCK, Texas -

Firefighters made their yearly stairclimb at memorials across the nation last weekend to honor those who gave their lives on 9/11.

Blindsided by a lung cancer diagnosis 17 months ago, Woodrow Volunteer Firefighter Joe Gillispie was unable to make this 110-flight stairclimb last year, but he said he made a promise to his fellow brothers. 

"They surprised me and had a new helmet made up for me and little tags like this that they were climbing with in honor of me. I kind of huddled up with them and told them how much I appreciated them, and that I was going to fight this, beat this cancer, and I'd be here this next year to climb with them," Gillispie said.

Training three days each week during the summer, Gillispie said he was determined to follow through on his promise: Complete the Dallas memorial climb with his brothers last weekend.

"By that fifty-seventh floor, I started getting really tired and I needed to take my jacket and backpack off. I've stressed more and more about our brotherhood, and I had two of my brothers pick up my jacket and carry it while I rested up. I just wouldn't have accomplished that without them," Gillispie said.

He said that "no one left behind" mantra with Woodrow Fire reminded him of the day he was diagnosed with cancer last year. 

"They all showed up at the house with a firetruck, and we sat there and hugged each other. Then we all prayed, as brothers, so they're with me every step of the way," Gillispie said.

Joe's wife, Susan, said no matter how difficult it gets, lung cancer will never burn out his dedication to service. 

"I'll never forget the very first chemo treatment we had. We were leaving the Joe Arrington Cancer Center, and we were walking out and his pager goes off. He goes -- let's get to the car -- and we get in the car and I said -- are we really going to go out to this call? And he said we're going to this call. That's inspiring and it's just something we can all take after him," Gillispie said.

Gillispie said he plans to stay on with the Woodrow Fire Department with his son, and he said the real inspiration is the legacy of the 343 firefighters who paid the ultimate sacrifice on 9/11.

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