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Carbondale fundraiser aimed to help climber with incurable cancer spread message of inspiration

Accomplished mountaineer Steve Furman has incurable cancer, but he hopes his expedition in Nepal inspires others to live life to its fullest.

Talk to seasoned mountaineer Steve Furman and he is emphatic that his next adventure is not about him.

“It’s about everybody else out there,” he said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “That was the big revelation: What can we do to make a difference in other people’s lives?”

A Colorado Springs resident and once a professional telemark skier, Furman, 57, has incurable cancer. He’s undergone surgery, radiation treatments, androgen deprivation therapy and other medical procedures.

“Life is good, things are good at work, and you wake up one day and you’ve got the ‘big C’ diagnosis,” he recalled. “I broke down and I cried. I was scared, I was lonely and I had no idea what I was going to do. These were life-and-death decisions, and I had no context to make those decisions. But you somehow get through that.”

His metastatic prostate cancer has been unpredictable, he said, recalling that his physicians said a surgery he underwent would potentially lower the chance of his cancer spreading by 70 percent.

“Well, it did spread,” he said. “And then you go to radiation.”

Cancer has become a way of life for Furman, who holds steadfast that despite his condition, he is enjoying and appreciating life.

Currently he is not undergoing any treatments and he is working to regain some of his strength in preparation for Sept. 28.

That’s when Furman, who has completed multiple Himalayan first ascents, Snowmass Village resident Brad Stevenson and a host of others depart for far western Nepal, where they will attempt to summit an unexplored 6,000-meter peak in the Gorakh Himal mountain range.

Furman and Stevenson are longtime friends and business partners. Stevenson has been leading the local effort to raise funds and draw awareness to the project. Furman has been in charge of logistics.

“A lot of people end up staying in bed or they can’t function in their jobs because of everything,” Furman said. “Cancer caused me to look and say, ‘What am I going to do with my limited time?’ “

Furman said he hopes his expedition motivates others to view life through a daily lens of self-awareness and inspiration.

“It’s not about me, it’s not about cancer,” he said. “It’s about inspiring people to do more than they think possible, and how we want to go about that is the climb. I’m just a vehicle. It’s really about all of these other people.”

To that end, Furman is aiming for an expedition — called “The Preservation Project” — to be filmed so the experience will capture a wide audience.

The seven-week project, however, is limited on funds. Furman, Stevenson and others are paying their own ways in full, but it will require an estimated $90,000 to pay for a film crew and their support team.

Some $25,000 to $30,000 had been raised as of Tuesday, Stevenson said, but the clock is ticking fast.

A fundraiser is set for 6-9 p.m. Friday at Marble Distilling Co., located at 150 Main St. in Carbondale. Twenty-five dollars will get supporters in the door and a fried-chicken meal. Sweet Coloradough will provide a doughnut bar, drink specials will be offered and a silent auction will be held.

Some accomplished filmmakers would follow the expedition, including Dirk Collins, a co-founder of Teton Gravity Research and the executive director of the OneEyedBird production firm. Collins also plans to attend the fundraiser.

Nick Quested, an award-winning producer of documentaries, also has been lined up as executive producer.

The endeavor also has a cheerleader — literally. Gioia Bartalo, captain of the Denver Broncos cheerleaders and the team’s social media manager, is leading the film’s crowdfunding campaign efforts.

“The story follows his expedition and how a man with no film experience brought together an award-winning team to manifest this broader vision,” according to the project’s fact sheet. “The film team will use this documentary as the first piece to tell the stories of others who choose to live powerfully and do astounding things when they realize their time is limited.”

Stevenson also emphasized that the film would be useful to anyone, whether they are living on borrowed time or have many years ahead of them. If the film achieves its mission, viewers would have a powerful shift in their perspective on life, he said.

Furman said he will attend the fundraiser. He said that for now his cancer has not spread, which gives him the chance to seize this opportunity.

“What I can control is how I deal with my life and how I approach life,” he said.

For those who cannot attend, there are other ways to donate to the cause.

Donations of $250 or more, which can be made through the American Alpine Club with a memo of Perseverance — the film — are tax deductible. Checks can be made out to American Alpine Club, Brad Stevenson, P.O. Box 5286, Snowmass Village, CO, 81615. Online donations can be made at http://www.generosity.com/community-fundraising/let-s-help-1-man-inspire-millions-a-film-on-time.

–  By Rick Carroll for The Aspen Times

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