Mark’s Story

Welcome to the Operational HQs for OPERATION TRUE GRIT.

(IF YOU VISIT THE GUESTBOOK, please say how you know me.)

Yea, call it corny, but with 23 years in the Army I intend to take this on like any Army Operation, and for starters, an Operation needs a communication center.  This is it.

----   Make sure you click the "Read My Story" link below or on the toolbar so you can see the "Background Story" of this bizarre freak'in ride.  ---

NOV 07-NOV 09 – Bleeding ulcer.

JUL10 – Stage IV Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Cancer.           

AUG10 – Diagnosed with different form of the same cancer.

NOV10– Diagnosed with Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor.

The Beginning.   Started experiencing some unusual fatigue on/about 20 JUN 10.  Not bad, just enough to raise concern.  I concluded that it was either a late Spring bug OR something related to my ulcer.  (I have a history of bleeding ulcers - twice in three years - with no known cause; “It’s not stress…some people just get ulcers.”)  Decided to take a trip to the doc, who ultimately decided to take blood.  Not a whole lot of concern on my part or hers given my weight, health, and lack of any other symptoms.

First Bolt of Lightning.   On the day GEN McChystal was relieved of his command, I had an email exchange with an old comrade - GEN Petraeus.  He recommended me for a position on his team and the very next morning I got a call from LTG Caldwell in Afghanistan.  We immediately dispensed with the formalities - he and GEN Petraeus had talked and they wanted me to do in Afghanistan what I had done in Iraq.  In this case, they wanted me to be the Military Assistant to Minister Bismillah Mohammadi, the newly appointed Minister of Interior in President Karzai's cabinet.

Initial Blood Work Results.  Blood work from routine check up showed Hemoglobin of 8.9...just above what I understand is a red-flag threshold.  Immediately referred to a GI specialist.

Scheduling/Endoscopy.  On 15 JUL Dr. Matlock performed an Endoscopy and found a fist-sized lesion in my duodenum (small pouch just past the stomach)...same spot as the previous ulcer, but a hell of a lot bigger (18 months ago it was the size of a pencil eraser).  The doc ordered more blood work and an immediate CT scan for 19 JUL.  Normal iron stores run from 100-300...mine were at 2.  Something was wrong.

CT Scan/Initial Diagnosis - Second Bolt of Lightning.  The scan was uneventful.  We met with Dr. Matlock the following day, Tuesday, 20 JUL.  Kristin and I watched a poker-faced Dr. Matlock enter the room and deliver through the softest voice possible that the news was not good.  He walked us through the slides of the CT scan one by one and the scene honestly took our breath away.  The "ulcer" was not an ulcer, but cancer.  And roughly 75% of my liver was filled with tumors – about 15 and they were big.  One looked as large as a baseball and several others were the size of golfballs.  He didn't know the prime source, but given the ulcer, and it's location to the pancreas, he believed it was either duodenal or pancreatic cancer.  He repeated through tearful and incredibly sympathetic eyes that he thought that this was going to be the thing that took my life.  He ordered a liver biopsy to determine exactly what we were facing. 

I notified my immediate family and found myself bracing for what I thought would be the remaining few months of my life.  I fired off a note to GEN Petraeus as well, and, as is typical, he responded within about 30 minutes with the following:

“Very sorry to hear this, Mark....  Needless to say, your focus now is to fight this enemy and leave the Taliban to us for a while.  Pls keep us posted.  God bless –“

I'll consider that an order.  Follow along in the journal for updates.

Latest Journal Update

Giving Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving!  I didn't want the day to get away without wishing all of you a wonderful Thanksgiving. May you find peace as you gather with your family and friends around the table. Our table will have two empty chairs this year. One for Mark, and one for my mom (she lost her battle with cancer in July). Their chairs may be empty, but our hearts are full of love and memories. And for that I am truly thankful.  I am also thankful that my boys are home under one roof this weekend, and for the food we will enjoy later today.  And that the Grey One and Orange Kitty adventures continue to bring laughter to the boys.  Take a moment to reach out to someone you love today, you never know when you won't have that chance again.  May you be blessed today with love, peace, and happiness.  Love Kris, Matthew, Joshua and Noah
103 people hearted this



Izzie shih
By Izzie shih — last edited
hi Kris ^ ^I am Taiwanese.I feel so lucky to have a chance to read Tell My Sons in Chinese version.I really want to truly thank you all because the content of the book make me become more grateful and deeply change my perspective of happiness on my life.I have raised by my mom in a single-parent family since I was little so I really don't know the feeling of having a father.I was very touched and tears streamed down my face when I read the book.I think words can't express how much the book influence me so thank you wishes!!
1 person hearted this
Pam Vulcan
By Pam Vulcan
Sounds like your Thanksgiving went well. We too thought of our 2 Moms not with us anymore. We are so thankful for the life they lived and that we were able to be a part of that life. Enjoy the wonderful spirit of Christmas as it approaches.
Sandy Best
Dear Kris, Matthew, Joshua and Noah--

Happy Thanksgiving! I'm sorry to learn of the loss of your Mother. Your strength and faith serve as an inspiration to us all.

Blessings to each of you! Thanks for reminding us all to reach out to the people we love. It's easy to take our loved one's for granted in the hustle and bustle of daily life.

On behalf of your friends with the Minnesota National Guard - Godspeed!

Sandy Best
3 people hearted this
Gloria Dorsey
By Gloria Dorsey
Thank you kind of you to think of us. Wishing you continued new joys on your journey. Best wishes during this holiday season as you and all of your family continue to adjust to the Mark and now Mom shaped places in your hearts. Peace and determination to you all.. DC Groupie, Gloria
Jerry Koltz
By Jerry Koltz
Happy Thanksgiving to y'all, too - get some steaks!
Steve Georgon
By Steve Georgon
God bless.
Linda Hogue
By Linda Hogue
Kris - I am so glad to read an update from you. I think of your precious family especially after the loss of your precious husband, Mark. I hope you all will continue to keep all of the happy memories alive that you made. And, I do send my sympathies in the loss of your mother.
1 person hearted this
Brenda Applegate
By Brenda Applegate
What wonderful thoughts & words. Happy Thanksgiving to you & the boys. I keep you all in my daily prayers. Blessings to you!
Joanne Kocourek
By Joanne Kocourek
When we count our many blessings, it isn't hard to see that what we value most in life are the treasures that are free... For it's not the things that we possess that signify our wealth, but the blessings that are priceless like our family, friends and health. Thinking of you and wishing you life's dearest blessings - at Thanksgiving and always. Happy Thanksgiving
1 person hearted this
M Rogers
By Mercedes Rogers
Think of you and the boys often, Kris. Thank you for for continuing to keep in touch. I feel blessed to be a part of your family's journey.
1 person hearted this