My 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.


meredith smith signed Mark's Guestbook.

I want to wish you a Happy Mothers Day.  You and your family stand out in my mind as strong and devoted to one another. Read more

Bill Lorntson signed Mark's Guestbook.

At the Twins home opener yesterday, they organized a Stand Up To Cancer event to raise some awareness and some funds. As you entered, they gave everyone a page-size sign ... Read more

Ray signed Mark's Guestbook.

Kristin, In the last few weeks I've read Tell My Sons and watched a number of YouTube videos especially the singing of Tell my Father. It was that which lead me to your ... Read more

Gloria Dorsey signed Mark's Guestbook.

Chris,  I am a bit late reading your entry but so thankful for it.  So happy you have decided to painful, not so painful, completely unbearable, tolerable day ... Read more

Paula Goldmann signed Mark's Guestbook.

We haven't met but I have been following your posts. You are one strong courageous person. I know there are no words I can share that will take your pain away,but my ... Read more

Beth Stagdon signed Mark's Guestbook.

You and your family are an inspiration to anyone facing the challenges that you are continuing to meet.Prayers and best wishes. Read more

Tom Fairchild signed Mark's Guestbook.

Kristin, I feel your pain and understand what you and the boys are going through. It's hard to believe that Suki has been gone for almost 3 1/2 years. It will get easier, ... Read more

Pat/Jack hardy signed Mark's Guestbook.

Dear Kristin,I think of you often and ask about you and the kids.  Lost is always hard.  It's as if your on a roller coaster. Bad times, happy times, change at every ... Read more

Suellen Musgrove signed Mark's Guestbook.

Dear Kristin. I think of Mark often. He lived more in 40 years than many people do in 80. I know he will never be forgotten by your family. He lives in your hearts. I pray ... Read more

Maureen Fogarty signed Mark's Guestbook.

Dear Kristin:  You and I have never met, but I have been following the story of Mark's illness and passing since first reading about it on line last June.  You have ... Read more

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