DENVER (KDVR) — Colorado is well known for its fair share of athletes, but even the best will tell you it takes some courage to climb a 14er.
14ers, as they’re aptly named, are the 58 Colorado peaks that sit at more than 14,000 feet in elevation.
They are perhaps the last place you’d expect to find someone battling cancer, but Kim Bierbrauer is no ordinary Coloradan.
“I’ve always used movement to help calm myself,” Bierbrauer said. “I just feel at home outdoors. It’s where I make the biggest decisions.”
Bierbrauer, 45, was diagnosed with leukemia in May and quickly began treatment at the Colorado Blood Cancer Institute, operated by HealthONE.
In September, she informed her doctor that she was going to try and climb Mount Bierstadt after her 9-year-old son Noah suggested it.
“I’m not really sure he believed me that I was going to do it,” she said.
“Yeah, I was very surprised,” Dr. Luke Mountjoy said. “This is the first time I’ve had a patient on therapy do the things that she’s doing.”
Mountjoy said they worked together to create a treatment plan, timing the climb for a brief window at the end of her first stage of treatment.
In early October, Bierbrauer set off with her husband, two of her sons and some family friends, successfully summiting the mountain.
“Going forward — and knowing that these next few months are going to be less fun for me, they’re going to be hard — I think having these moments to look back on, and look forward to, that’s what I think about,” Bierbrauer said.
Bierbrauer said she’s printed out photos of the climb, which will sit next to her bed as she receives a bone marrow transplant from her brother this week.
“To have those pictures in front of me, it will be a great reminder of who I am, and what I’m hoping to return to,” she said.
Doctors say her brother is a perfect match, giving Kim a roughly 70% chance of survival.
“The goal is cure for Kim, and she’s got a great shot at that,” Mountjoy said.