RIDGWAY – On a website set up by friends – www.beanfever.com – Ridgway guide and mountaineer Bean Bowers has a picture of one of those old-fashioned framed wall hangings, cross-stitched with the words “Fuck Cancer.”
Bowers, 37, has been battling cancer since it was discovered, in his brain and elsewhere in his body, suddenly, with no previous symptoms, this January. When I talked with him on the phone Tuesday (he’s being treated in Denver), he was slowed a bit after day two of his third round of chemotherapy. But true to his nature, he was optimistic that he’d be ready to party April 28 when friends and family are hosting a massive fundraiser at the Avery Brewery in Boulder. “It’ll be a blast,” Bean predicted.
From the website again: “Fuck cancer. Help Bean.”
“Don’t know Bean?” the online invitation goes on, “So what! If you know that you love life, live life, and want to help (no matter how big or small), then please come.”
This is the spirit of the climbing and guiding world in which Bowers has been immersed almost since birth. He was born in Montrose but likes to say he “squirmed out of the womb at 8,770 feet” in Telluride, where his parents lived until 1975. (Bean is the nephew of longtime Telluride resident and realtor Jim Bowers.)
Both Bean and his wife, Helen, are climbers. He has worked for Exum Guides in Jackson Hole. She was a climbing ranger in the Tetons. They live in Elk Meadows above Ridgway.
The cancer was originally diagnosed as stage four renal cell carcinoma, “an uncommon and hard to treat” cancer, Bowers told me. It was on his liver and his kidneys, and in his lungs, in addition to the tumor that was removed from his brain. But the diagnosis was inconclusive, and following radiation treatments, a second oncologist thought it best to treat Bean for the more-common germ cell cancer. If he responded well, after “they got my chemo cocktail together,” then the likelihood was he had the more-treatable germ cell variety. “We need this to be germ cell,” Bowers said.
There have been setbacks, but “I started to bounce back after round two.” Now he is hopeful that “we can kick this thing into the dirt.”
Adding to Bowers' troubles, he shattered his femur skiing above Ophir in December, little more than a week before his cancer diagnosis. But there is good news on that front as well: his orthopedist says the bone is sufficiently healed for him to put 100 percent weight on it and begin physical therapy. Famously strong on the trail (“a tough bastard with a kind heart” is the way his online friends describe him), Bean said he has “lost everything” in terms of muscle strength.
Bowers does have health insurance. But it’s not covering everything, and needless to say, neither he nor Helen can work. They are renting a place in Denver. And at the very best, there’s still a long medical haul ahead.
Thus the fundraiser. There will be food, beer, music and slide shows, according the website. And a huge number of items for auction: everything from a climb of the Grand Teton with Exum Guides to gear, clothing, lodging packages and artwork.
For years, friends thought Bean Bowers was invincible. Now they know different, and they’re coming together to help a stricken friend.