Through the Fire & the Flames: Coming Together in the Face of Cancer

Brew It Yourself: A Community Brew Movement in B/CS
July 10, 2017
Texas Wine: 40th Annual Harvest Festival
July 10, 2017

By Samantha Gamez

Little else compares to the the bonds forged in a firehouse. Twenty-four hour shifts foster the perfect environment for lifelong friendships to grow and flourish. Ben Miller realized the depth of those relationships when he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in July of 2015. With the support of his College Station Fire Department buddies and the Bryan College Station community, he is now in remission and back on duty at Fire Station 2. This year, Miller is serving as honorary chair of the Brazos County Cattle Baron’s Ball.

When Ben was diagnosed with AML, he says the news took him by surprise. “I just felt like I had an infection of some sort,” says Miller. However, the weakness and odd bruising were warning signs of the disease. In Miller’s first diagnosis, his white blood cell count was too high to determine the type of leukemia he had. Once his doctors confirmed he had AML, they began chemotherapy. “To go from feeling fairly normal and fairly strong to being in an ICU the next day was a big shock,” says Miller.

Upon the diagnosis, Miller and his wife Natalie moved to Houston to be close to the treatment center. The couple left their children, Anais and Quinlan, in College Station to allow them to attend school. “That was the hardest part,” says Miller. “We missed them; they missed us.”

His family and friends wasted no time in researching and gathering support for Miller. “It was amazing how quick they researched what I was going to be going through,” says Miller. The College Station Fire Department organized a meeting at Station 6 as soon as they heard of the diagnosis and began to set up blood drives and fundraisers to support Miller and his family in any way possible. Some of his coworkers picked up his shifts for free so he could focus on getting better. Even his wife’s coworkers donated sick time so the family could continue to have an income during their stay in Houston.

The incredible support Miller had from the CSFD and the B/CS community helped Miller stay upbeat. He got to see first-hand the incredible support of the local community during visits to fundraisers and blood drives. The Houston Fire Department also gave their support when the couple stayed in Houston. “There was hardly a day that went by that [the HFD] didn’t come by and bring my wife and I a meal at the hospital,” says Miller. They visited so frequently that Miller asked when they ate at the fire station so the Millers could come and eat with them.

After one round of chemo, Miller was in remission. However, over the course of six months he repeated chemo to stay in remission until he could undergo a stem cell transplant, which was the only treatment that would cure the leukemia. He moved back to College Station in December 2015, and he returned to the fire department on light duty in January 2016, completing administrative tasks and delivering supplies. In April 2016, Miller was finally able to rejoin his fire family at Station 2.

Now that Miller is back at the fire station, he works as a driver engineer. He makes sure the fire trucks are in working order and can step into leadership positions as needed. During his 48-hour breaks, he enjoys working in his yard and garden now that he has clearance from his doctor. He also owns Tailboard Pizza Company, a catering company run out of an old fire truck. When he was still regaining his strength, Miller spent some of his spare time perfecting his pizza and growing his business. One of his favorite creations is comprised of grilled chicken with white sauce, kalamata olives, and red onions on his homemade dough.

Miller still has a long road to recovery. He still undergoes chemo for maintenance and has a five-year waiting period before he is declared 100 percent cured. Still, he is grateful to be home with his wife and two kids.

“It’s been great being back to my fairly normal lifestyle,” say Miller.  “Being able to be at work and being able to start running my business again and getting to do things with my family…It [is] a huge relief.”

Save the Date!
The theme for the 2017 Brazos County Cattle Baron’s Ball is “Rhinestone Rodeo.” There will be auctions, dinner, and entertainment. All proceeds raised through the event will go to the American Cancer Society.

What: 2017 Brazos County Cattle Baron’s Ball
Where: Silver Horse Ranch, Bryan
When: Oct. 14 at 6:30 pm