Mark Nuzzo. My siblings and I know him as our dad and my hero. Tina knows him as the love of her life and her husband. Many of you know him as the computer guy or the guy from New York who always tells several “dad-style jokes.” Many of you know that over the last 27 months our family has been battling with his gastric cancer which was diagnosed at stage IV. We drove from Tifton to the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville on the day before his 54th birthday to see what could be done. I sat with Dad and Tina in the surgeon’s office as he told my dad that “it was too far gone…” and that “not much could be done.” He had his first surgery done for staging and to sample the lesions in his liver that were thought to be the first known mets. We went to see the oncologist at Mayo the next week and dad was started on his first chemotherapy - the surgeon told us “see you later” and we continued to pray. His story didn’t end there as many cancer patients’ stories do. He responded remarkably to his first rounds of chemo and by Thanksgiving, we were planning for a radical gastrectomy and partial esophagectomy at the Mayo. On January 18, 2017, the source of his cancer was removed and we had two pesky little spots in his liver to remain concerned about. Over the next several months, Dad was hospitalized several times with post surgical complications and Tina was with him every step of the way, holding his hand and nursing him back to health better than anyone else could have possibly done. We met that summer with an interventional radiologist who offered to perform a radiotherapy treatment on his liver mets that could effectively make him cancer free - though we know stage IV patients never get remission. He had the procedure done and responded very well to this as well. Then, at the three month scans following this - more mets were seen. Chemotherapy treatments were escalated and dad was at the Mayo Clinic at least once a week - a two and a half hour drive from his home in Tifton. After a few more changes to his regimen, we thought that we had everything held back - everything at bay. In July of this year my dad started to have some troubles walking which were attributed to his intense chemo schedule. The fighter that he was, he didn’t allow this to slow him down. In August, while planning my wedding, he started getting daily headaches which again, were attributed to his chemo and he continued to fight - making his weekly five-to-six hour roundtrip for chemo. On September 20, when down in Jacksonville for a treatment, Mark was found to have a lesion in his cerebellum - a part of the brain that is dangerously close to his brainstem. Gastric cancer metastasizes to the brain in 0.67% of those who suffer with this terrible disease. After over two weeks in the hospital and a neurosurgical procedure, Dad was able to come home - weaker than normal but still determined to fight. Over the next days, we awaited the plan from the oncologists regarding his future treatment plan. Unfortunately, the procedure that dad had to save his life in the hospital rendered him an unfavorable candidate for any chemotherapy to be introduced directly to the brain and almost a month later, on October 19, 2018 Dad and Tina made the most difficult decision of their lives, to go home with hospice.
A lot of you have asked if there is anything that you can do. We appreciate all of the prayers and support that people have sent our family. We appreciate his employer for keeping him on and allowing him to work 10-20 hour weeks when he was unable to do more. We appreciate the neighbors who have built a wheelchair ramp at the house so Dad can get in and out with more ease. None of us wanted to get to a point where we would have to ask for money or undertake a “Go-Fund-Me” page but the bills from all of this world-class care have built up and Dad is no longer able to work and support himself. Tina continues to work but obviously needs time to be able to spend at home with Dad during these days. The outstanding balance at the Mayo Clinic at this time is $15,000 and that is my goal - to take that debt away from these hardworking, hard-fighting people who have spent 27 months battling the toughest battle. That number doesn’t include mortgage payments or power bills or food for the two of them but it is something - a small piece of a peace of mind that I hope we can make happen.