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



amy koelfgen
By amy koelfgen
Mark is never forgotten and has touched lives of strangers bettering their lives, blessings always to your family always, know that Mark watches over his family from Heaven :)
2 people hearted this
Cris Anstey
By Cathy Anstey
Beautiful words, Kris...we think of you and your wonderful boys often. Lots of love from Cris and Cathy xxxx
1 person hearted this
Beth Mangold
By Beth Mangold
I am blessed today by your post, Kris. The love that fills your home flows out into your post and I am thankful for the inspiration Mark and you have been and continue to be in my life. My deep condolences on the death of your mom. The memories are ongoing gifts of the precious loved ones we keep with us in our hearts. God's peace be with you and your family, and Happy Thanksgiving!!
2 people hearted this
Miles Lowe
By Miles Lowe
I would also like to wish you and your family much joy and happiness as you celebrate this day and may your continue to find peace in the loss of Mark and your mom. God bless each and all of you.
1 person hearted this
larry smith
By Larry and Gretchen Smith
Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family. Larry and I were just talking about Mark and were wondering how you are all doing. We are so sorry to hear about the loss of your mother. We hope you all have a Blessed Christmas this year.
1 person hearted this
Valerie Maples
By Valerie Maples
Thank you for posting! Mark's life made a huge impact on ours and we still pray for you and the boys. We lost the last of our four children, Nichole (21) last month and now Doug and I are a couple, not a family. :-( After a complicated hospital stay, Doug is now on a ventilator, but we remain very grateful for all we have. Hugs and prayers from our home to yours!
Marie Winters
By Marie Winters
Thank you for your post. I often think of you and your boys and hope you are doing as well as you can. My deepest sympathies on the loss of your mom. No matter how old we are, there is a great loss when our parents are no longer here. My mom always prepared Thanksgiving dinner, now I do the same recipes for my children, grandchildren and she IS here with us! Love and prayers and many blessings being sent to you and your family.
1 person hearted this
Karen Johns
By Karen Johns
Thank you Kris and family for the wonderful tribute. I too have had a great loss on this holiday as my mother passed away on Thanksgiving day 28 years ago and not a day goes by when I don't feel the same sadness I felt that day. I find it difficult to feel thankful on this day but I do my best. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!
Jacqui Henrich
By Jacqui Henrich
Happy Thsnksgiving to you all. I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of your Mom... Sending lots of love your way, keeping you in my prayers.
Gene Muellner
By Gene Muellner.
Kris, thank you for reminding me what I should truly be thankful for today. Even today Mark is an inspiration to me and I'm sure many more. You and your family were blessed and still are even though at times it may not feel that way. Thank you for the post and have a wonderful thanksgiving!