Mark and Renee
Claire 12- Lucas 10 - Piper 7
A year ago, Mark's lung collapsed. It was one of the scariest moments of my life. We didn't know what was happening, only that he was gasping for air and I didn't know how to help him. I called 911 and the first responders saved his life.
The next day, they figured out Mark had a massive tumor in his left lung. Over time and many changes in treatment options, he had the entire lung removed by an amazing surgeon at Duke. He was a star patient -- not once needing oxygen since the surgery! Then, in hopes to never have cancer again, they gave him 4 months of weekly chemotherapy. Over the winter. It was a l-o-o-o-o-o-n-g winter. A hard winter. But, we had the spring to look forward too! He would heal and we would have our new "normal" back. That was the light at the end of the tunnel.
We were so close. We had a few good weeks, a birthday celebration in April and we were making plans for Mark to have a fun summer with the kids while I started my photography business.
Then, he began having small issues -- headaches, shakiness and a few falls that we couldn't explain. I sent him to the ER to get checked out.
It was far worse than we ever thought. A week later, it was confirmed with an MRI that Mark has Stage 4 cancer metastisized to his brain. They saw over 5 spots (lesions & tumors). Doctors said it was terminal, usually under a year.
A few weeks later, while we were on our way for Mark to begin whole brain radiation (the only treatment we thought was an option), we received a call from Duke. radiation oncologist there wanted to see us. We turned the car around and scrapped all other plans to go.
Within a week of that call we had 2 Oncologists at Duke working with Mark. The current treatment is a Stereotactic Radiosurgery, that will be precise and have minimal side effects. The doctors there were extremely relieved we came to them. We are too. We still have many steps to climb. We don't have the best odds, but at Duke they feel we can give Mark much better chance.
Our challenges right now, aside from supporting Mark and the cancer...
Over the past year, we've used up our reserves on medical deductibles and uncovered costs. We had to stop when we ran out of money. We have been flipping homes for the last 5 years, which has been like living a dream. A crazy dream, but our dream. We were a good team. Our last flip that was finished at the end of chemo is still on the market -- it needs to sell.
We were planning on Mark being with the kids for the summer while I began photographing families, which I can't do while taking care of Mark and the kids. Once we get through this treatment, I will need to give the kids away through the summer. We'll have to wait and see how/if Marks symptoms improve. Hopefully, we can still salvage some of that fun summer.
Groceries, cleaning and yard work are all the things Mark would be doing if he could. He can't and it's painful for him to see it fall apart around us. I don't have the energy for sustaining these things. It's hard to tell where to spend the energy some days.
We need help planning all of the things we have wanted to do, in case things don't improve. One of Mark's dreams (that we've put off because, you know, we were busy) is a trip to the Caribbean -- just the 2 of us. Another is just being out on the boat. A third is a day at the water park with the kids, just having fun.
I don't know what else to say, but this moment in our lives is beyond what we can manage on our own. We need help. We don't want to ask for help. We wish we didn't need it. But life isn't working that way right now.
Every little thing makes a big difference. It makes us feel like we aren't quite so very alone.