January 03, 2014

Another visit with Mark

My kids stayed the night at my parents' house last night, and this morning when I got up, I briefly thought about attempting my long run outside...

It would have been "fun" to run in that temp, just to say I did (it would definitely have been my coldest run ever), but there was SO MUCH SNOW that I honestly couldn't. So, unfortunately, I had to run my long run on the treadmill for the third week in a row. I wasn't dreading it, though, because it was only eight miles today. I was actually looking forward to watching another episode of Medium.

It ended up being a terrible run, though. Ever since I started strength training, my shoulders hurt when I run, and today it was awful. The only way to get relief was to hold the handrails of the treadmill, but I didn't want to throw off my form, so I only did it once in a while. I wanted to quit early so badly because I was in a lot of pain, but I just pushed through and finished it out. If I had been aiming for 12 miles, there is no way that I would have finished today.

I finished running eight miles, and then got ready to go see Mark. I decided to take my kids with me today, and I figured we'd keep the visit short so that they wouldn't get bored. I just really wanted them to see him, because I knew it'd be a good learning experience. I even promised we'd stop at McDonald's for lunch (something we NEVER do); I wanted to get Mark a strawberry shake anyway.

After we ate lunch (I got a Southwest Grilled Chicken Salad, which wasn't too bad), we went down the road to the nursing home. I'd called before we left home to make sure that Mark would be done with his radiation; I didn't want to get there and have to sit around and wait with the kids. They told me to come after 12:00 to be safe, and we got there at 12:30.

When we went to his room, Mark wasn't there. He'd already done his physical therapy, and they took him to the hospital at 10:00 for his radiation (the treatment takes five minutes, tops--transportation is another story). The nurse told us we could sit in his room and wait, so that's what we did. We waited. And waited. And waited. I had driven 45 minutes to get there, and I didn't want to leave without seeing him, but I felt bad for the kids! They were being angels, though, probably because they knew how much it meant to me to see him.

I asked one of the nurses if I could have some tape, so that I could tape some of Mark's cards around his room. That helped pass the time a little, and I liked that it didn't look so bare in there.


Mark's closet
These were just the cards from the last two batches. When Mark's nephew moved him to the nursing home, he didn't leave Mark's cards--and he hasn't been there to visit him at all or to bring the cards back. My mom has asked him to drop off the cards, at least, and he said he would. I just hope that he does, because those were special to Mark. If he brings them, I'll hang up all of them as well.

A doctor came in, and I told him who I was. He said he'd been hoping to speak with Mark's family about the benefits of an organic, whole foods diet, and how it can increase longevity. He gave me a list of foods to avoid and foods Mark should eat--basically, all organic fruits, vegetables, organic free-range meats, etc. I know he meant well, and if Mark's cancer wasn't at Stage IV, maybe I wouldn't bring him so much junk. But the one thing Mark can really enjoy and look forward to right now is junk food! I could never take away his one pleasure. When I'm on my deathbed, I certainly hope I'm not eating organic this or that instead of ice cream! ;)

Finally, Mark ended up arriving at around 2:45--two hours and fifteen minutes after we arrived! He loved what I did with the cards, and he was really upbeat and happy today. He was telling me about his physical therapy, how he scored "85" on his "bad" hand--I'm not sure what the 85 means, but he's definitely able to grip much better than he was before. From what the doctor told me, that probably means the radiation shrank the tumor on his brain, so it's not causing the numbness so much. I'm hoping that the radiation on his spine will relieve the pain in his legs next.

He got a few packages today (some of his beloved junk food, which he was thrilled to see; a book about old cars, something he's interested in and knows quite a bit about; and a package from Hawaii with cookies and a medal. Seeing the medal and reading the card made me get teary-eyed. Someone had run the Honolulu Marathon last month and sent Mark the finisher's medal, saying that "Mark deserves it more for being such a wonderful guy".

Mark with his medal
While I was there, I got a phone call from an editor at Runner's World magazine (did I mention Runner's World is writing a story about my From Fat to Finish Line team?! It will be in the April issue. So exciting!). I chatted with her while the boys had a visit with Mark. I saw Eli go help Mark open his milk carton, and that made me happy. Later, Eli said he was really proud of himself for helping, and he said it made him feel good.

Mark chatted quite a bit about his past today, and it's always interesting to learn about him. I had always assumed he was born with special needs, but his nephew recently told my dad that Mark was born very healthy. When he was seven years old, he was run over by a car, and suffered brain damage. Today, Mark said he didn't remember accident, but that the driver "took off like a bat out of hell". I asked him if he has any memories of his parents, and he said they went to the state fair one time. It was his first time going on a ride, and he ended up throwing up! It was fun to listen to him tell the story.

I ended up leaving at 4:30, and I was so proud of both of the kids for being so patient. They never complained or asked to leave, even though I knew they were bored. The day went by SO fast, between my long run and the visit with Mark. I'm thinking of going to visit again on Sunday, but we'll see what this weather does. We're supposed to get 10 more inches of snow this weekend!!


  1. Katie, I have been following you for a while and you are always inspiring. Think I first "met" you on SparkPeople. You are a kind and loving friend to Mark. What a gift you and your family are to him and I know he is to you, too.

  2. Holy cows! Not to spark a debate here, but if I was declared terminal, I straight up know that I want chocolate (and not the dark, healthy kind either), potatoes fried in lard and a martini. No one dare get in my way either! Thank you for honoring Mark's food cravings. It's called compassion for a man who knows what he wants.

    I'll be looking for your Runner's World article. It was fun to hear your voice on that podcast last week. Keep up the good work, Katie!

  3. Mark sounds like such an interesting and inspiring person! As an oncology nurse, I must say if that doctor had any brains at all, he would tell Mark to eat what he feels like and what he wants. (I'm sorry I don't mean to berate him - but sometimes I feel like physicians lose what is important here. Quality vs. quantity! )

    Okay, I'll get off my soap box now..... I wish you all the best with Mark!

  4. I experienced severe soreness during my runs when I began strength training. Once you get over the initial shock of working those fine muscles you just don't use that much with running, you're runs will actually get better! My first half marathon time was 2:17, and running was the only thing I did to prepare. After I began Crossfit and trained for my next half, my time improved greatly! I finished my second half in 1:58. I felt better throughout the run, and I found that my body needed less recovery time after the race.
    Hang in there!

  5. I took a running clinic a couple of winters ago to train for a half marathon. We ran outside up to the temperature of -30 celcius real feel (-22 farenhiet ), even if it was snowing heavy...Brrrrrr. It's hard to get motivated to get out there, but once you've started and are warmed up, it's not as bad as you'd think. I had a group to run and complain with so that probably made it more tolerable. My thoughts are with Mark. He must be so grateful for all the nice things you do for him :)

  6. Hopefully your shoulders feel better soon. I've got to start strength training like… a month ago…so... hopefully today haha

    Was the doctor talking about later, when Mark is no longer in the nursing home? Or do they actually feed their residents an organic diet there?

  7. I'm so glad that Mark is part of your life and you are part of his. What a gift, Katie.

  8. Good for you for sticking to your guns and bringing Mark what he WANTS to eat, not organic low sugar blah blah blah. Let him savor each moment!

  9. yay i'm so glad to see my card made it! your posts about visiting mark always have me on the verge of tears because it reminds me of when my dad was diagnosed. i'm so glad he has you and your wonderful family to have around =]
    on another note - this winter sucks!!! tomorrow the whole state has no school and a lot of businesses are closing in minnesota. it's so cold out!!

  10. I'm so sad Mark doesn't have all of his cards! I'll just have to send in a few more to make up for it.

  11. AHHHH! I see my Wyoming post card on the bottom of the wall! I feel famous.


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