Though the New York City ING Marathon didn't end up taking place on Sunday, an East Hampton Town Police Officer who was going to dedicate her run to a retired officer fighting liver cancer raised $5,700 for cancer research.
Before Hurricane Sandy struck, Lisa Weitz, of Wainscott, was all set to run the 26.2-mile course, as part of Fred's Team, an organization that raises money to cancer research, in honor of Tommy Miller, one the officers who helped train her when she first joined the force in 2003.
In 2002, Miller was first diagnosed with melanoma, which was removed and monitored. The cancer spread to a lymph node, which he discovered as a lump the size of a large pea in his groin in May 2011. In March, he was diagnosed with liver cancer, which was not treatable through chemotherapy or radiation.
Doctors gave him a prognosis of three to nine months, if he did nothing.
Miller, who will turn 53 in January, is receiving two immunotherapy agents that work in concert to activate the immune system; MDX-1106, an experimental treatment, and Ipilimumab, an drug used for the treatment of melanoma, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Both are antibodies that bind to cells.
"You really knocked me over when I heard you were doing this," Miller said when the two met up at Oak-Dale Farm, his family's farm on Three Mile Harbor Road, two weeks ago. A proud man who's always quick with a quip no matter what the situation, he said he is honored and overwhelmed that Weitz thought of him.
Miller said he's responding well to treatment. He's still making frequent trips to pick up and deliver hay, and he's in good spirits. "I think a lot of everything is attitude," he said.
When Weitz left the NYPD nine years ago, Miller was just getting ready to retire from the EHTPD. "He definitely had an influential part on my training," she recalled. He also made her feel apart of the close-knit East Hampton department.
Now, Miller said he is the lucky one — to have had the support of his family and friends throughout his cancer treatment, especially that of his wife Lianne Miller, to whom he's been married for 19 years. "She saved me," he said, referring to the death of his first wife.
"He's been through a lot," Weitz said. "If this is the least I can do for him, just to run in his honor, and have the money go to cancer research, then I'm happy to do it."
This race would have been Weitz's second year taking part in the marathon. Last year, she ran alongside Sag Harbor chiropractor Stephen Petruccelli, but due to an injury he wasn't going to join her this year.
"It’s an overwhelming experience just to be a part of the NYC marathon . . . Going over the bridges and seeing the city the way you see it," she said. Running for a cause, she said, makes the experience even better. "Plus, you're a part of this team that's raised over millions of dollars for cancer research — it hits home for so many people."
Fred's Team has raised $46 million thus far for research at Sloan-Kettering, which is where Miller is receiving treament.
In 2011, she dedicated her run to Gary Hertzan, the father of her best friend since kindergarten, with whom she grew up with in Massapequa. He was battling Lymphoma at the time and is now doing well, she said.
Weitz said she was also partly inspired to raise money for Fred's Team because she lost a grandmother to colon cancer before she was born. A good friend, Christian Jacobsen, lost his battle against Leukemia in 2002.
Even though the marathon wasn't cancelled until Friday, Weitz had deferred her entry until next year because she said she didn't want to take shelter and resources away from those in need. She donated her room through the Race2Recover.
She's looking forward to next year. And, so is Miller.
Donations are still being accepted. To visit Lisa Weitz's page on Fred's Team and donate in honor of Tommy Miller, click here.