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Mark’s Story

I have pancreatic cancer. In a matter of 10 days, I went from some vague abdominal pain to undergoing several different surgeries, CT scans, MRI, ultrasounds, numerous blood tests and starting chemotherapy. Throughout all of this, my teams of medical professionals have led Kathy and I through the dizzying maze of tests, work ups, procedures and medications. 

Two days before Thanksgiving,I experience a very mild tenderness in my upper abdomen. We spent the holiday in Edina, MN with Kathy’s family and the pain actually improved. I was intending in putting things off until my annual physical later in Dec with my primary physician, Dr. Gary Leong. I happened by chance to see one of the surgeons in the hospital the Monday after Thanksgiving.  I asked her about my symptoms and Dr. Cindy Geocaris urged me to investigate this sooner, than later. Subsequent blood tests showed one of my pancreatic enzymes to be markedly elevated, which led to an ultrasound and CT scan of my abdomen. The CT scan showed a mass in the head of the pancreas. After undergoing three biopsies, removal of my gall bladder and a staging laparoscopy, I was formally diagnosed with Stage 2 adenocarcinoma of the pancreas, the most common type of pancreatic cancer. During this whirlwind of tests and procedures, I have seen no less than 10 different physicians, and at least twice as many other medical professionals. Kathy and I have traveled to Madison, WI, Johns Hopkins in Baltimore and the Block Center in Chicago to consult with one of the top pancreatic surgeons and oncology teams in the country.

Needless to say, this diagnosis has been devastating to our family and friends, but there are reasons for optimism. I am younger than the typical patient, my cancer is at an earlier stage than typical and I am in relatively good physical condition. At this point, my cancer is borderline resectable without metastasis and should be amenable to surgery after my chemotherapy and radiation therapy is complete in February. Throughout all this, there has been an outpouring of support and prayers from our family, colleagues, friends, neighbors and our church family .Kathy and I made the decision for me to retire from my ENT practice on December 3. Not exactly the exit I had been planning, but the right decision nonetheless. My partners and staff have been extremely supportive during this transition.

I started my chemotherapy Dec10, and additionally received radiation therapy locally here at the Bellin Cancer Center. Please read my Journal entries for all of the latest updates.

Latest Journal Update

The year of "firsts"

I know it has been quite some time since I posted here on Caringbridge. Since you last heard from us we went on our spring break trip as a family to Arizona and had a wonderful time visiting with both sets of grandparents who winter down there as well as our good friends the Hopman's. Lots of laughs and tears were shared. Rebecca finished her last dance competitions and recitals after a decade of dancing with both her dance troupe and the dance team at the high school . Rebecca also graduated from high school last week and we had the big graduation party at our home last Saturday with family and friends. She will be going to the University of St Thomas in Minneapolis/St Paul and will join my other two girls, Rhiannon and Robin who also attend UST. St Thomas has got to love us, that's for sure. She plans to study engineering.


So you see, lots of "firsts" without Mark. Last weekend was also the annual 10k Bellin Run. Mark and all of us have run the Bellin for at least the last 14 years. This year Mark's sister Karen and family joined us at the starting line along with Michael, Robin's boyfriend. We were all decked out in special shirts designed by Rhiannon honoring Mark as you can see from the picture. Both my parents and Mark's parents were there to cheer all of us on. Ryan beat us all with a run time of 46 minutes, not bad for a 12 year old running 6.2 miles. Everyone did well and we all finished with admirable times.


I also have announced my official retirement from Abbott Laboratories. This coming week will be my last week in the office after 30 years of working for this wonderful company. I leave with only pleasant memories and gratefulness for having been given such wonderful career opportunities over the span of 3 decades. I only hope that my children have the opportunity to work for such a stellar company and have the caliber of colleagues I have had the pleasure of working with during my tenure. During these last 18 months since Mark was diagnosed with his cancer and subsequently succumbed to the disease, I couldn't have asked for a more supportive and understanding group of colleagues. They all pitched in when I was unable to do my fair share and I am forever grateful.


So you see, we have been very busy. We are now moving into living life without Mark. We begin our travels through time remembering, loving and missing the man we call husband and father. We will do this with laughter and with tears as we embrace new adventures and new experiences with Mark's spirit walking with us.
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Comments

11 Comments

Kelly Eells
By Kelly Eells Nurse Practitioner
Wishing you only continued healing. Mark would be proud of all of you on how you continue live life and do so by helping others as Mark did.
God Bless all of you.
Rochelle Goeltz
By Rochelle Goeltz
I think of Mark often, all the laughs I had the opportunity to share with him as we worked together. I always add Mark, Kathy and the rest of your wonderful family into my prayers. Much love to you all!
Cindy Bunker
By Cindy Bunker
Team Reinke is amazing and so inspirational! Wishing you all the best as the next chapters in your lives unfold. With much love and admiration.....
Carla McGrath
By Carla McGrath
All the best to you and your family, Kathy. Congrats on your retirement and thanks for hiring me 12 years ago. You continue to inspire your friends, family and colleagues and deserve all happiness.
kim hartstern
By
What an amazing family. Reinke Strong....thanks for sharing. You are in my thoughts and prayers often.
Jill VanAdestine
By jill
Wow! Kathy! Mark is paying attention I bet! :o) and he is so proud! I would think he is saying "see that amazing family down there? And that truly amazing woman? That's my family and thst beautiful woman is my wife!" Nothing more to say but that! Stay strong!
Debbie Ruggles
By Debbie & Scott Ruggles
You and your family continue in our prayers!
Linda Sand
By Linda and Michael Sand
Love the t-shirts, love your incredible, indelible spirits, Love you...
Brenda Peotter
By Brenda Peotter
Kathy,
All I can say is what a beautiful testimony to the legacy Mark has left on you on you and your family. Love the t-shirts and congrats on your retirement!
Halina Stankevych
By Halina
It was great to hear from you, Kathy! Congratulations on the milestones that you are celebrating. I know that they are bittersweet without Mark, but your pain will ease with the passage of time. Even though Mark's time on this earth was too short, his was a life well lived and his spirit, memory and love for you will embrace you and always reside in your hearts.