ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (FOX 13) - This wasn’t Celia Merritt’s first climb to support the Lung Cancer Association, but you could say it was her hardest.
For the last eight years, she’s climbed these 42 stories for her mother, Gail Porter, who had been diagnosed with stage four lung cancer in 2010. Porter was a huge presence every year at the climb, waiting for her daughter at the finish line.
“This year is the first year she’s not here," Merritt said. "It's difficult."
Porter passed just days ago, but Merritt knew she couldn’t stay home today.
"It was tough to make that drive this morning and not have her in the back seat," she said. "But this event is the absolute antithesis of cancer. It’s the antithesis of suffering and there’s love and support here.”
Along with her Hillsborough fire crew, some who have been a part of this journey since 2010, will be another presence.
"She's here," Merritt said. "This is the first year that my mom gets to climb with us, instead of waiting for us. And I'm OK with that."
Nearly 1,000 steps later, Merritt made it to the top. She said in races past, she was stressed.
"I was always in such a rush to get back to her, to make sure that she was OK, and then I could relax," she said.
But this time around, that calmness lasted the entire time.
"There was a sense of peace that I've never had when I did this," she said.
Proof that the best view can come after the hardest climb.