I am honored to have Kim Kircher here today. She is an incredible woman with an incredible story – one you have to know. Read this. Tell your friends. And then get her book. You’ll be inspired, I promise.
Most of the time we don’t need inspiring stories. We might hear about a car crash victim that survived or a cancer patient that beat the odds, and think to ourselves, “that’s nice.” But we don’t let ourselves go there. It’s easier to stay inside our cocoon of safety, pretending like nothing bad will ever happen to us.
But that’s not how it works.
When I first met my husband, I thought my life was finally getting better. Here was a man who loved the outdoors as much as I did, a man with lofty aspirations and a sense of adventure that rivaled my own. I work as a ski patroller at Crystal Mountain in the winter. It isn’t a high-paying job, but the view from my “office” is amazing. The year I met John, I was living in the back of my pickup truck, transitioning from my summer job leading kids in the backcountry to my winter work in the mountains. John is the owner and General Manager at Crystal, and when we started dating I couldn’t believe my luck.
No Longer a Fairy Tale
A few months before our first wedding anniversary, things changed. John had a rare liver disease and needed a liver transplant. Worse, he’d developed cancer in his bile ducts from the years of inflammation. The doctors could do chemo and radiation, but if the cancer spread outside the bile ducts, the transplant was off and he would die. It didn’t seem fair. John had kids and a new wife; I’d found the man of my dreams and was ready for the Happily Ever After part. I was quickly reminded this was real life, not a fairy tale.
I found inspiration on the slopes. I had been through tough times before; I could get through this. As a ski patroller and EMT I use explosives to start avalanches and my first aid skills to save lives. I’ve been on scene of tragedies; I’ve narrowly escaped death myself. The trick was to break time down into smaller increments. I learned to get through the ordeal just fifteen minutes at a time.
When John was first diagnosed, and in tremendous pain in the hospital, he was put on a patient administered pain management system, in which he could push a button that delivered medication every fifteen minutes. At times, John claimed, it felt like an elephant was standing on his abdomen, the pain was so intense. During those moments, I helped him get through the next fifteen minutes until he could push the button again.
Once out of the hospital, when we returned to the ski area while he waited for a liver, I returned to my job, finding inspiration in the details. By not looking too far ahead, focusing instead on the task at hand, John and I endured a harrowing year of pancreatitis, a battle with a deadly infection, cancer treatment, and the long wait for a liver transplant.
The Next 15 Minutes
Now I find inspiration everywhere. Every one of us faces hardship; the trick is to learn from it and build your strength for the next battle. In my book, The Next 15 Minutes, I extract strength from the mountains and get through the ordeal by breaking it down into smaller increments.
I met Heidi at a writer’s conference this summer, and I was immediately intrigued by her story. Once you’ve felt death’s cold knock on the door, you are forever changed, and I could see Heidi and I had that in common.
In my case, I stood aside as my husband battled for his life while I searched for inspiration to get us through it. I wish I had met Heidi then; her courage and strength would have come in handy.
Thank you Heidi for having me here today. I’m honored.
In Kim Kircher’s memoir, The Next 15 Minutes: Strength from the top of the Mountain (Behler) her job as a ski patroller teaches her to slow down and deal with her husband’s in smaller increments. She has logged over 600 hours of explosives control, earning not only her avalanche blaster’s card, but also a heli-blaster endorsement, allowing her to fly over the slopes in a helicopter and drop bombs from the open cockpit, while uttering the fabulously thrilling words “bombs away” into the mic. Her articles have appeared in Women’s Adventure, The Ski Journal and Ski Washington Magazine. You can find out more about Kim at www.kimkircher.com. Her memoir is available everywhere.