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The youngest of five Irish children, Mark was raised with and mostly by his Grandparents. At five years old his Mother and four siblings moved in with their Grandparents. Later, when he was a sixth grader his Mom was in a car accident and became mentally disabled. Mark started college and then a career but when he and his wife Karen started a family he quit to be the stay at home parent for 7 years to two beautiful daughters now 10 and 4. During that time Mark also completed his associate’s degree. Mark really enjoys friends, teasing, joking around and his daughters.

Mark started experiencing debilitating pain in February of 2005 at the age of 42. He was diagnosed with Pancreatitis, told to watch his diet and cease all alcoholic intake. Mark modified his diet a bit, discontinued his sports watching drinks and even made it through St. Patrick’s Day with out a drop of alcohol only to end up in the emergency room Mother’s Day weekend with the same debilitating pain. This time however his blood levels did not indicate pancreatitis and the scan revealed what was labeled a pseudocyst. It was thought to be caused by secretions from pancreatitis and wasn’t solid enough for surgery. They provided Mark with pain meds and scheduled him for a follow up scan in a month. It was explained to us that it could continue to grow, become more solid and operational, or it could dissipate on its own; however, we were told it was not cancer as there was nothing on the scans earlier that year.

The follow up scan in June revealed that the cyst had grown 3cm and they wanted to remove it immediately. He went in for a distal pancreatotomy and spleenectomy after which the biopsy revealed he had Acinar Pancreatic Cancer. He was considered stage II as it was not found in surrounding organs or lymph nodes. It had infiltrated some surrounding fatty tissues but the surgeon felt he had gotten it all. Mark followed up the surgery with what is considered an aggressive regimen of radiation and chemotherapy. It was definitely scary prognosis but we had hope because of his age, that he was otherwise healthy, that he was stage II and the type of PC.

During the six months of treatments Mark experienced nausea, weight loss, weakness, dehydration and pain. Afterwards, he grew stronger, gained weight and although the pain never ceased completely it was tolerable and he was able to enjoy 10 months of remission that included a long awaited family trip to Ireland and a skydiving endeavor. Approximately every three months during Mark’s remission he went in for blood work and scans that were always reported as normal.

In October 2006 the routine follow up scan revealed two lesions on the liver. Looking back at his previous scan in June 2006 they found that they had actually been there but had been missed. They hadn’t grown over the three months and the first opinion was to wait until the next three month follow up since Mark wasn’t having any debilitating symptoms. We sought a biopsy that confirmed the suspicion that they were indeed the pancreatic cancer and learned that he was now considered stage IV. After getting over the initial devastating news Mark really wanted to do something about it. We had a last minute “just because” party, got five opinions on his prognosis and treatment options, and searched for eligible trials.

The treatment options all included putting Mark on the same chemotherapy medication he was on the first time around with the same or one combination alternative and/or increased dosages. All indicated that the cancer was now considered terminal. Most had nothing more to offer, one offered what seemed way too many things and one offered liver cancer treatment options.

Mark decided to pursue the liver treatment option called Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) where they laproscopically treat the tumors by burning them. As we waited for the surgery date Mark became depressed and had a difficult time committing to going through with the procedure. Then between the time of his October and December scans the tumors had more than doubled in size making them too large for the procedure. Mark then instead underwent a different procedure called a TheraSphere treatment that consisted of administering radiation directly to the liver tumors using radioactive beads.

He had the TheraSphere procedure done twice (March 2007 and November 2008). In between he had several cancerous moles removed. To help with liver functions he had stents put in and replaced this year. He has been in the hospital many times this year and has just been put on hospice this second week of May 2009. He is now 46 years old and has been experiencing many difficulties lately including excessive pain, lack of appetite, colitis, fever, difficulty breathing, weight loss, weakness, thrush, and pneumonia.

This has been a very difficult journey for Mark and his family but we have found that we are truly blessed in family and friends and cannot properly ever thank everyone. THANK YOU for the support and prayers and bless you all in your own life struggles.


Posted 05/15/2009 09:08 pm by treegirls
E-mail Address: harkinkr@hotmail.com

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