August 30, 2005

Waiting to hear if the eye doctor will let him fly...
to Austin from Bangkok for a visit here soon, and if he is feeling well enough to fly and if he or I can find enough air miles for him to get a ticket so he can reserve his cash for treatment. He is a little worried he will run out of money for treatment. About a month after he started treatment for cancer with an initial prognosis from doctors on Saipan of only 3 months to live, someone asked Mark if he had enough money to live on and get treatment and he said: "If I die in two months I have too much money and if I live much longer I don't have enough." Of course he is headed into his 7th month after diagnosis.

Early this year, generous co-workers on Saipan donated him their sick time. Recently my workplace, Community Clinical Research, wired money which covered a three day chemotherapy treatment and sent him a care package too. Very early on friends on Saipan gave him money for treatment, and three of my former co-workers at ACC sent money and of course I have given him funds, and some of you reading this have sent him gifts, money, Koolaide, candy and prayers. Every one of these gift from the heart have greatly helped his spirits and his ability to stay in chemotherapy and to keep his hope up. Thank-you all.

Today I looked at the pictures (see above) I took of Mark and I sailing in the San Juan Islands in March of 2003 and pictures of him in March 2005 and I can see the toll that chemo and cancer have taken....the loss of hair...the loss of color in his skin...the loss of energy. Sometimes he looks really sick and sometimes he still looks great even today without his handsome head of wavy hair. He still has his sense of humor and can make us laugh. He still dresses up when he goes somewhere and looks as much like a G.Q. model as he can muster.

Mark is at a crossroads in which his doing radiation and continuing to do chemotherapy and all the prayers could help him get better or he could die way too young at 45. Mark yearns to have more adventures and I think that is why he continues to go for chemotherapy when it makes him so sick for days and drains him financially. I have reminded him that he has had more adventures than most people have in a lifetime and he has a lot of great memories of trips we took to various parts of Honduras and to the Moskito Coast of Nicaragua and Honduras volunteering with MEDICO, our trips to sailing schools and chartering a sailboat to go watch whales in the San Juan Islands, fishing in Cabo San Lucas and Cabo San Jose, trips to Cambodia, adventures in Thailand, Scuba diving off Roatan, and years ago when we lived in the country: riding motorcycles and camping out and shooting muzzleloading guns and throwing tomahawks at a number of National Muzzle Loading Competitions in Friendship, Indiana.

Yes, we have had a lot of adventures together and then too, he has had a lot of adventures without me; perhaps adventures with some of you who are reading this.

I hope Mark has many more adventures and I am ready to help him plan another adventure soon. One of his expressions when we get into a tight spot or a strange situation when we are off the beaten path is: "and the adventure continues." And so it does.

Contact MissBettythemom at if you want to send Mark a postcard from somewhere in the world or you want to send him some sour candy or send a small contribution to help with chemo or to buy ice cream.

August 23, 2005

Mark has had laser surgery on his eye.

He is no longer sick from the last round of chemotherapy. I am waiting to hear the latest news on his vision and on the eye that has had a problem. He is eating again and has gained weight. He is cooking again and reading again. He tries to get the books with print that is not so small. Those of you who are, lets not say older but just more mature, will understand the problem. Some novels have very tiny print and some have larger print.

Treatment for cancer is a roller coster. Sometimes Mark is sick for days and eats very little if anything and is not capable of doing anything. He suffers from extreme coldness and chills at times and sits out in the hot Bangkok sun with a wool hat and a blanket. Other times he is extremely hot and can't stand heat. As he gets further away from a chemo round, he is much more lively and attending to things like getting the drapes cleaned or cooking a gourmet meal, and eating to put on weight for the next round. Why not stop all the chemo? The doctor found him in very bad shape when he first saw him in Feb. He could not swallow solid food. His tumors were large, his liver swollen and after about three months of treatment a CAT scan showed his primary tumor reduced in size, his liver much improved and he was able to eat solid food. He is a guy who was given three months to live and has now passed six months. My hat is off to Mark for going through treatment. He has a lot of grit.

August 15, 2005

Mark has called me about several problems he has.

When you hear you have terminal cancer, you know the months ahead will be precious, but difficult. We're now encountering difficulties we never saw coming.

He fell on his slick hardwood floors dashing to answer a phone and he broke his arm. He is nearly blind in one eye and can not read now. He had to have an emergency surgery on his eye. He is feeling bad from chemotherapy and can not keep any food down.

Mark calls me from the hospital groggy with pre-operative medication and as they are wheeling him to surgery he dictates his last will and testiment to me just in case he dies today. He has been in pain from his eye surgery. The doctor did a biopsy (mark did this under local anasthesia to save money), thinking it might be occular metastasis. This biopsy was sent to N.Y., and while we are waiting for results, Mark tells me that he will just have his eye taken out and get a glass one with a smiley face on it. He has not lost his sense of humor. He has a bubble in his eye of some sort and has to sleep sitting up. He is not allowed to lie down.

He desperately wants to come to Texas to visit for 10 or 12 days between chemotherapy but the eye doctor will not let him fly until his eye problem is corrected due to the pressure on the eye when flying.The doctor wants to do a laser surgery on the eye but Mark says he can not afford it. He has a different type of surgery on his eye...a second surgery and then finally decides he will go ahead and have the laser surgery. It will be a week or so after the surgery before he knows if this will help his eye problem.

Through all of this I am trying to get some records from Mark to use in filling out his tax forms for 2004. He is too sick to deal with this and when he feels better and does deal with it, the records keep getting lost in the mail and those sent by fax are illegible. I finally get his signed request for an extention in the mail. This has been a fair amount of worry and work as I have to send any paper forms to him in Bangkok then bug him to find whatever I need or sign whatever needs signing and mail it it back.

On Aug. 15th I pay an H and R block tax preparer, who is expert in dealing with foreign income, to do Mark's taxes based on a lot of research I have done to get information about how these taxes need to be handled and the documentation needed and many many calls and letters back and forth to Saipan and Bangkok and bugging my Austin, Tx CPA friend, who is retired, for suggestions and verification. On August 15, I also go to IRS and wait in line forever to get a request for an additional extention of time because I don't yet have a copy of a W-2 that I need.I mistakenly had thought that this extension request could be postmarked by has to be received by IRS and get a stamp on it and the local IRS then sends it to Philadelphia where all filings with foreign income must go. It is a great people watching experience to wait in line in the IRS Taxpayer help facility on a deadline day. I know lots of people will sigh in relief when they learn these tax forms were finally filed.

August 08, 2005

Stephanie's words: Mark just amazes me at times. I know he is in a lot of pain and doesn't feel like doing anything, doesn't feel "well", but then he also has a desire or need to go out and do everything. He's in need of a trip longer than just to the grocery store today, so we've gone to the travel agency in the Honey Hotel and reserved a car and driver to take us to the "Ancient Capitol" of Ayuttaya.

The drive to Ayuttaya is about an hour with very little traffic. We sleep off and on in the car, and it's hot today. Ayuttaya is really beautiful... we rent a golf cart at the summer palace and drive around, trying to avoid running over any other tourists. Mark seems to enjoy being behind the wheel of a vehicle again, even if it is just a cart. The palace grounds are amazing and we find a little pond stocked with fish, which we feed bread bought from a vendor. Eventually we see a small nose repeatedly poking up out of the water, then a bigger nose of "something" we think might be a turtle, but if it's a turtle the corresponding body would be HUGE. Mark feeds the nose which does eventually come up to us, and which must be the size of a kid's wagon. NO, this photo is NOT of THE turtle, but of his little friend (1/10th the size!)

From the summer palace we drive over to some ruins. They are humbling. The heads from the temple statues were chopped off and taken centuries ago, and only a few remain, imprisoned in the roots of trees. By mid-afternoon the heat is taking the wind out of all of us, but Mark is really worn out and we head home. In the end it takes him a full day to recover from the trip and he suffers chills and fever half the night, but the day is a memory I will cherish and I appreciate him sharing this part of Thailand with me.