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Adventure Sports

with Stefan Nestler

Mick Fowler: “No, I’m not dying right now”

Mick Fowler

First I had to swallow. He has cancer? That cannot be for real. “For us in the ‘Club of 50+’, people like Mick Fowler are acting like an antidepressant,” I once wrote about the British extreme climber. In my view, the now 61-year-old proves that true adventure knows no age limits.  Year after year, Mick sets out to remote Himalayan regions to enter unexplored climbing terrain. And with great success: Mick has been awarded the Piolet d’Or, the “Oscar of the Climbers”, already three times. Again this year, he had planned another first ascent in the Indian Himalayas, as in 2016 with his compatriot Victor Saunders, another “oldie”, aged 67. But then, a few months ago, Fowler received the devastating diagnosis: “‘You have cancer’ was both a shock and a relief,” Mick writes looking back. “The uncertainty was over. No more dithering. The trip would have to be cancelled. But what would lie ahead?”

Very odd

Mick during the chemotherapy

It began when Mick noticed one or two unusual coloured faeces and a little weight loss. However, the climber actually felt fitter and healthier than for some time. In addition, he had to organize the expedition. “I had slipped comfortably into a ‘monitor the situation’ mindset,” Mick writes. It was his wife Nicki who urged him not to treat these things lightly and to go to the doctor. A colonoscopy and a biopsy were made. The result: Fowler suffered from colon cancer. “I felt well but the doctors told me I was very ill,” Mick recalls. “But they also told me that if all went according to plan then in six weeks time they would class me as well (all cancer cells wiped out) but I would feel ill (after radiotherapy and chemotherapy). It all felt very odd.”

Positive prognosis

Fowler (r.) and Saunders on the summit of the 6000er Sersank (in 2016)

The treatment in a hospital in Sheffield is now behind Fowler. “I would like to reassure those that ask if I am about to die that I am not,” Mick writes. “The prognosis is positive and Victor and I are getting on with re-arranging our Himalayan trip for 2018.” Fowler has started out to gently running and climbing. Mick recommends everyone to take care of their own body: “And get straight down to the doctor if you sense anything odd going on. Nothing (even a Himalayan trip) is more important.” In addition, there is the offer of regular cancer screening that everyone can and should use. After all, climbers do not have an anti-cancer gene, this can happen to any of us. All the best, Mick! I keep my fingers crossed.

P.S. I would like to point out once again the initiative “Outdoor against Cancer” (OAC) founded by the German journalist and mountaineer Petra Thaller. It offers outdoor activities for cancer patients. “I just realized that my psyche benefitted from my sporting activities,” Petra told me at the trade fair ISPO in Munich last February. She had been diagnosed with breast cancer at the end of 2014 after an expedition to the Carstensz Pyramid in Papua New Guinea.


12. December 2017 | 20:55