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Lung cancer survivor who will climb 902 steps is ‘an inspiration’

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KANSAS CITY, Mo -- Could you climb more than 900 steps all in the same morning? That's the challenge hundreds of people will take this weekend in a Kansas City high-rise. One man says he'll make it even without most of one lung.

Stairs can wind many a middle-aged man, especially one who had most of his left lung removed six years ago.

"It was tremendously hard. I was used to doing a lot of hard work and physical activity and running. But after the surgery, I didn't have any reserve lung capacity," said Ralph Agee.

Agee has a large scar on his back from the surgery for lung cancer, a disease he got even though he never smoked.

He has exercised in the years since, but he hadn't really tackled stairs until last year. Julia Nigro, his trainer at Yards Athletic Club, figured it could improve his breathing.

"You know, there's nothing like the real thing," said Nigro.

Agee went from climbing a few flights to all nine floors in the gym's building. He's gone up and down as many as 25 times in one work-out. So climbing 42 floors doesn't see so daunting.

He'll do that Sunday at One Kansas City Place where the first Fight for Air Climb in Kansas City will be held. Participants will climb 902 steps to raise money for the American Lung Association.

"Over there, it's all up so we'll probably have to stop a couple of times to get some air," said Agee.

Nigro said, "He's an inspiration. He's an inspiration to everyone here."

That includes the team that will join him on the climb.

"We'll do it. No problem. Well, we may crawl, but we'll get up there," said Agee, laughing.

If you'd like to donate or participate, check out the Fight for Air Climb website. The American Lung Association says 90 cents of every dollar raised goes directly to education, research and advocacy.