Mark&Carol Kerk A Bend in the Road

First post: May 1, 2018 Latest post: May 14, 2024

Mark and Carol’s story starts with Carol. 

But before we begin, let's clarify one thing. Carol and I always believed that due to my numerous illnesses and hospital stays, I, Mark, would be the one to pass away while she would live a long life, just like her parents and family, reaching her nineties and beyond. However, one day when Carol came home, sent away a friend I was talking to, and said, "We need to talk," I immediately thought I had done something terrible. As she explained the seriousness of her cancer, including the large mass on her spine and the necessary treatment, it became clear that our lives were about to change drastically. We looked at each other in disbelief. This was not the plan we had envisioned. Carol rarely fell ill and was highly disciplined in all aspects of her life. She had a plan for most of our marriage. I would often tell my friends, "I don't interfere with her life, and I don't interfere with mine." She had unwavering faith and trust in God. Together, we faced her two-year journey with that same faith and trust, believing that God had new plans for us.

Carol was one year and one month older than me. Yes, I married an older woman, and I couldn't have been happier with my choice. She was not only smarter than me, but most of the good ideas were hers. She was right almost all the time if not 100 percent of the time. We were blessed with countless hours spent together, traveling and working as a team. Right from the start of our introduction, she was the driving force of our relationship. It was during our time serving at a youth camp in NY back in the seventies that she found me, not me finding her. I still find it incredible that we had such an extraordinary life together, and I am grateful that she chose to share it with me. I am forever grateful for our partnership.

As we approached retirement, we downsized our lives in preparation for the next big thing, unaware of how crucial those changes would be. We wanted to do the fun things our older friends were doing, thinking they were perfect for our future. However, we were both working too hard and continuing seemed impossible. I clearly remember asking God what's next. The answer to our prayers was unbelievable.

In our new condo and jobs, we discovered she had back cancer. For two years, we battled her illness together in different hospitals. Sadly, she passed away in 2019, having exhausted all treatment options. During those two years, I worked remotely, and we cherished our time together. I'm grateful for the 42 years we served our Lord and for the memories. Now, four years later, I'm thankful I can write about God's provision and protection for Carol, me, and our families.

Mark's story:
On New Year's Day 2020, I found myself searching for my new normal in retirement. Four years later, I'm still figuring it out. I'm busier than ever with important tasks and projects, trusting God for His blessing. Grief-Share has taught me the concept of finding the new normal. Some ask, "Why can't you just get over it?" Moving forward is different from moving on. I don't want to forget 42 years of marriage but incorporate the best memories into my new normal. Retirement comes with joys and challenges.

In the spring of 2020, when COVID changed lives forever, I also began adjusting to being single and faced new health issues. Doctors attribute many of my health problems to stress, although genetics and diet play a role too. During the two years of helping Carol, my health was good, but afterward, I developed major issues not previously documented in my medical records. The first was chemically damaging my liver, which required special treatment to improve its health. Additionally, I was diagnosed as pre-diabetic. The second issue was 100% A-FIB, which was successfully treated with an ablation procedure. Despite some post-op heart-related experiences, I am now good to go.

The third and final major medical issue was unexpected, but I am grateful for the positive outcome. My primary care physician (PCP) was concerned about my persistent fatigue. Despite my previous efforts, I had not experienced significant improvement. After undergoing various tests, my doctor planned to implement an extensive exercise routine if no abnormalities were found. My goal was to regain energy and return to my previous level of functioning.

To investigate further, my doctor scheduled several tests, including some recommended every three years. Among these tests, a CTA revealed a significant increase in the size of a bump on the aortic crown above my heart. The size warranted further evaluation and intervention. The surgeon recommended a procedure, but due to a high number of life-threatening emergencies, my surgery was postponed until January 11, 2023. As the date approached, the schedule continued to be filled with emergencies. We chose March 1 for the surgery, considering family availability.

Aortic repair is a complex procedure. I understood the risks and prepared myself for a potentially different outcome. I found peace in God's guidance through this journey. Recovering from major heart surgery is a long process. Everyone is unique and at a different pace of recovery. The person to your right might fare worse, while the person to your left might fare better. It's been 9 months, and I'm still waiting. The doctor says things might normalize after a year, but we're not there yet.

As I post each entry concerning my journey, I aim to encourage everyone that God always provides and protects. I'm grateful for your thoughts and prayers.

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