As a member of the Crystal Mountain ski patrol, Kim Kircher is used to helping people in their time of need.
However, she found saving strangers easy compared to the biggest challenge of her life – helping her husband beat cancer and a life-threatening liver disease.
John Kircher, general manager of Crystal Mountain, lived most of his life with a liver condition called primary schlerosing cholangitis. In 2008, he learned he would need to find a donor for a liver transplant if he was going to live longer than the next nine months.
Ten people signed on to donate a liver, but it wasn’t until the final donor, Kim’s brother’s brother-in-law Whitney, that doctors found a suitable match. But even then Kircher had a new obstacle to overcome — cancer.
For Kim, now 40, and John, 52, the transition from their adventurous lifestyles to the battle of their lives wasn’t easy, but they learned lessons they hope will serve them well for the rest of their lives.
Kim Kircher wrote a book, “The Next Fifteen Minutes: Strength From the Top of the Mountain” (Behler Pulications), about the battle. The book goes on sale Saturday.
Why did you decide to write a book about your experience?
I’ve always been a writer. When John was sick, I was writing email updates to get news to family and friends and they were getting forwarded to others and people started saying, “You should write a book.” After he got the transplant, I thought I’d take a look at all these emails and see if there was a book to write.
What makes your book different from other medical memoires?
It is kind of a funny genre and nobody (publishers) is buying. It is the ski patrolling that was the selling point.
Did your ski patrol job help you deal with the stress of your situation?
At that time my greatest salvation was work. At work I had to focus on what I was doing and not what I was hearing from the Mayo Clinic. I didn’t want the mental flexibility of a vacation. I needed to distract myself from the “what ifs.” When I started to write the book and remember things, I realized that was a really good process.
What is the big lesson you and John learned from the experience?
We want to remember what we learned. We want to remember what’s important, like family. John works extremely hard with the four ski areas he oversees, but he is remembering to slow down.
The book almost reads like a love letter in some passages. How much has this experience strengthened your relationship?
I call this the biggest black diamond run of our lives. A lot of people start to take their relationships for granted. This happened pretty early in our relationship so we never had that time. Every day we practice not taking each other for granted. Everything we do, we never forget how lucky we are.
Craig Hill: 253-597-8497