Mark was diagnosed with malignant melanoma during Melissa's and my senior year in college. Melissa and I and been traveling together at the time and when we came home, her world was shattered.
But because her dad had been so fit, so health conscious, so positive and hopeful a person before the fight began, he was able to undergo trial medical therapies that weren't available to everyone and which likely saved his life. After enduring all that, Mark decided to become a mentor to young people going through similarly deadly or difficult medical battles.
When I came home from the hospital, weak, broken, and sad, Mark came over to the house and sat with me for hours, just talking about life, what it means to be living, and how to move forward within the confines of pain. He gave me some of the most profound advice I ever received within this process.
He said, I've come to realize that my pain level is usually about three times higher than most peoples. That's just my day, my new normal. I've learned that I'm not going to let that stop me from pursuing the life I love. I'm still going to golf, I'm still going to run my business, I'm still going to be a father, grandfather, and mentor. This pain will not define me and if you start to feel like it's defining you, remember my song, Don't Stop Belevin'! Don't stop living, don't stop doing what makes you feel alive. Your pain level might be 4, 5, 6 times what other's are living with but don't let that stop you from living too. Fight the fight, and find peace.
Not only does he still play golf, and continue to be an amazing father to his three kids and two grandkids, but just a few weeks ago, he had the opportunity to play on one of the first golf courses ever created on this earth. It is is Scotland, were he traveled with Melissa and Jan, their wife and mother. I am so proud and happy for all of them. As we all know, no matter the struggle, Melanoma, autoimmune disorders, blood clots, it's not just the survivor who is fighting, every family member, every friend, all of us fight this battle together, and may we all find peace in our journeys.
When I was first hearing Mark's advice, I was still at a time in my life where walking to the kitchen or bathroom was a struggle so I couldn't imagine the life that he described. I couldn't even visualize a time when I could conquer my pain, live my life again. Then just the other day I finally had that feeling of freedom and knew his words to be true. We were visiting friends who have a 1 year old son and I found myself, up in the yard, dancing in a bubble stream, laughing and watching those bright spheres of light pop and dance in the air around the people I love. I was living above the pain. Living above the fight. Living within the peace and the joy. Thank you, Mark. You told me it was possible. You were right. Cheers to us and to all the survivors this day.
Lots of Love,
*I DO NOT own the rights to this music. They belong to The Beatles and their record label.