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Benefit for Miller family Friday

Naomi Havlen
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Another fairly young Aspenite has been diagnosed with cancer and is fighting for his life, and his friends are doing their best to help him out.

After recently being diagnosed with cancer in its late stages, 38-year-old David Miller is enduring a lengthy treatment program in Texas, forcing his family to relocate for eight months.

Meanwhile, Miller’s friends in the Roaring Fork Valley have planned a Friday night benefit for the family, which could be faced with staggering medical bills not covered by their insurance.

“Our friends began organizing this benefit within weeks of David being diagnosed, I think because they knew this would be a hard road for us – emotionally and financially,” said Elizabeth Miller, David’s wife. “This allows us to let go of some of the financial concerns, and put his health as top priority.”

The David Miller benefit is Friday, from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. at the Hotel Jerome, and will feature live music from Bobby Mason and a DJ dance party. Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres will be served, and a live and silent auction will feature items like a trip for two on Holland Cruise Lines, a party at Elk Mountain Lodge, two Jazz Aspen season passes and more.

Organizers are suggesting a minimum donation of $25 per person at the door.

The Miller family includes two daughters: MacKenzie, who will be 4 next month, and Molly, 7 months. David was the owner of the former Legends Bar in Aspen, and currently is a self-employed general contractor and designer. Elizabeth works for the Buddy Program.

David was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in November, an aggressive form of cancer that doesn’t exhibit many symptoms until it’s in its late stages. Elizabeth said her husband was getting back into shape this fall when he and some of his friends noticed on a trip to Moab that his stomach was distended.

David learned soon after at Aspen Valley Hospital that his spleen was three times its normal size. Doctors immediately scheduled an MRI, a CAT scan and a biopsy, and discovered that the cancer was already in stage four. There are only four stages of cancer.

“He had no symptoms and he was really healthy, working out and feeling great,” Elizabeth said. “That’s what was so weird about it. And it’s the chemotherapy that’s making him sick now. He was actually feeling really good up until the diagnosis.”

Miller began to study the cancer, and his research sent him to MD Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, a center known for its aggressive approaches to cancer treatment. As a result, Miller is on a schedule of eight treatments at the center, and each treatment lasts three weeks.

After the first two treatments, Elizabeth said they attempted to bring David back to Aspen for treatment, but when he contracted pneumonia at Aspen Valley Hospital he had to be flown back to Texas.

“It would have been really nice to be at home. We wanted to have the treatments done at Aspen Valley Hospital and then fly back to Houston to see doctors, but instead we’ve decided just to live here until David is done with treatment,” Elizabeth said.

“Mentally, David is amazing. He decided from the very beginning that this isn’t going to win, there are no what ifs and he’s going for the cure,” Elizabeth said. “I think he has his moments, but he chose aggressive treatment because he’s 38 years old and he has a life to live.”

Miller is now completing the fourth round of his treatment. Because the treatment at MD Anderson is not part of their insurance company’s network of health care providers, the couple knows the treatment will be costly.

Each round of chemotherapy costs $40,000. There could also be high fees for Miller’s weeklong stay in intensive care and the Flight-For-Life required to get him back to Houston after the bout with pneumonia.

Lynn Seeman, a friend of the Millers helping to organize Friday’s event, said although it’s easy to feel helpless when someone is diagnosed with cancer, a group of 13 friends quickly pulled together to do anything they could.

“David and Elizabeth are both tremendous people, and the generosity in this town has been unbelievable,” Seeman said.

Chris Cheo, another benefit organizer, said she knows that if one of the Millers’ friends was diagnosed with cancer, they’d do anything they could to help their friends out.

“It’s never crossed our minds whether or not to do this. We’ve always been happy to do as much as we could to help them out,” Cheo said. “They’ve got two young children, and I think this is hitting pretty close to home for a lot of people.”

If anyone would like to help but is unable to attend the benefit, they can make a donation to: The Snowmass Chapel, c/o Mesa Bank, 317 East Hopkins Ave., Aspen, CO 81611.

[Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com]


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