In Memory of Mark

Hi All,

It is hard to believe that this Saturday, August 10th, marks the one year anniversary of Mark’s passing.As we approach this milestone, we wanted to take a moment to honor him and thank you for all your love  and support.

The best way to sum Mark up, is that he was a “good man.”

A man who…

–  Treated others with respect and kindness

–  Could look beyond himself to a bigger picture and purpose in life

–   Knew a lot about a lot of things, but without a touch of arrogance

–   Was incredibly funny and quick witted bringing so much laughter to our lives

–   Worked hard every day yet at the same time, was able to stop and enjoy the moment

–   Had a diversity of interests and could chime in on a conversation about any topic

–   His friends and family could count on whenever we needed him

Above all, Mark was a man who loved his family and would do anything he could to make us happy. As I see my boys grow up, I see so much of Mark in them.  He would be so proud of the young men they are becoming and I know he smiles down upon us.

This year has been a tough one in many ways adjusting to the new reality of things. Yet, it has also been filled with many blessings. Thank you for all the ways in which you have lifted us up and carried us through.  We are forever grateful.

In celebration of Mark, on Friday night we are going to the Red’s game. He has been a lifelong and loyal fan and we thought it would be a nice way to do something together that he enjoyed so much.  As a touching tribute, Mark’s family purchased a brick at the stadium in honor of his memory.  It’s located in the Hall of Fame Breezeway near section 19.  Whenever you make it to the stadium, please stop by and take a moment to remember him.Mark brick

Much love and many thanks.

Becky, Neil, Nick and Ruben

Keith, Lisa, Chris, AJ, Katy and James

Joan, Don and Julie


A tribute to Mark from all of us in honor of his birthday…(9/16/63)

We miss you dearly Mark but take comfort in the wonderful memories we’ve shared and the countless ways you have touched our hearts.

Through your warmth and kindness you have supported us.

Through your intelligence and wisdom you have guided us.

Through your humor you have made us laugh and brought joy to our lives.

Through your bravery in battling cancer you have shown us what true courage really means…and you did it with such grace and a smile on your face.

Through your generosity of spirit, you have made us all feel special and loved.

You have made your own “Mark” on all of us in different ways…and for that we will always remember you and be grateful.

A note to family and friends: Thank you for blessing us with so much love and support. Your kindness has brought me and the boys  comfort beyond measure.  My last birthday wish request is that in Mark’s memory that each of you do something kind for someone else – whoever you think may need it to plant more seeds of what Mark gave to us in joy, laughter and love.  We will be celebrating with a big bash that my neighbors are hosting. How very kind!




Hello All,

I am writing about a change in plans for the Schraff Bash planned for October 20th.

The original intent of the big bash was to help us support Mark and our family by lifting our spirits and raising funds that would enable me to stay home with Mark to care for him and the family. With his passing, our needs have changed.

My initial thought was to keep it going as a celebration thinking we would be so rushed in planning the Memorial Service that we would not be able to honor him in a special way. I was clearly mistaken. As a family, we so very pleased with how it came together – the tributes by Keith and my boys, the music, the church, the pastor, the reception…and all the family and friends present that our cup floweth over with appreciation. We feel that Mark was smiling upon us and that it will hold a special place in the hearts of those whose lives he touched.  So from that stand point, we feel at peace.

From a financial stand point, things have changed as well. We are grateful to have life insurance in place which will help to cover the house and some basic living expenses – not sure yet to what degree but all should be fine. I also will be in a position of working (likely the beginning of the New Year) once I can better process things and get my life back on track.

So with these things in mind, we think it is best to not host the event as planned. It feels like we have already done what we needed to do.

I know many of you had already considered contributing to the event in some way which is very kind and generous of you. If you still wish to donate something on behalf of Mark, I ask that you consider contributing instead to the Scholarship Fund as that would be of real and tangible help to my boys and mean the most to Mark.  It is the area where we have the most need. Please send donations to: Schraffenberger Scholarship Memorial Fund, Fifth Third Bank 7580 Beechmont Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45255. Reference account number 9976947102.

Many of you have already donated to the fund or provided support to our family in other significant and meaningful ways. Your generosity has humbled us and inspired us to pay your kindness forward when we can.

On that note, I have one last simple wish. Mark’s birthday is coming up on September 16th. My wish is that on this day, that we all take pause and do one random act of kindness for whomever your path crosses that might need it.  On that day the world will shine just a little bit brighter… and that for sure will make Mark smile.


Many thanks and much love,


P.S. I know that some of you have already secured silent auction gifts and we will circle back with you on how to address those.


As a family, we want to THANK everyone for making Mark’s Memorial Service so special. While tough, it was also very touching to have all those who knew and loved him come together to honor and celebrate his life.

Thank you to all who travelled from afar and those who made special arrangements to move around busy schedules (flights, college move in plans etc)  to  come and be with us. Please know that your being there meant the world to us and offered tremendous comfort.

We are so very grateful to Pastor Dr. Tom Lipsey for his touching tribute and to the welcoming staff at Montgomery Community Church (Kristy, Annette and Andrew) for their generous hospitality and for all they did to support and lead our family. We are not members at the church, but that topic never once came up. They simply just asked “how can we help you?”

We so wanted to make the service special for Mark and to reflect who he was as a person. And from our perspective it was perfect.  I truly believe that he was smiling down upon us.  I know that he would be touched by Keith’s beautiful letter and oh so proud of all his boys and how they handled themselves. Before each of them went up, I asked Mark to help them out and he most certainly did. I have posted all the family tributes on a separate tab in the blog for those who would like to read them.

Something that we hadn’t expected, but that was such a wonderful gift was the framed picture of Mark in his golf cap. Thanks to Jason at the Strawser funeral home who so graciously did that for us. It made his presence all the more real. Thanks also to Lina, Ashley and my boys who pulled together the great poster collages. Everyone seemed to enjoy seeing the pictures of Mark in his younger days with a full head of curly hair!

A special thank you to  Emily Kissela for saying “yes.”  Her rendition of “For Good” was amazing. I know it hard to sing when emotions come into play, but she did it with such poise and beauty. I think her Grandma (who had passed away a year before on that very day) was also helping her out. Thank you also to my sister Lynn who orchestrated all the music selections within the service and playing during the reception and for making keepsake cd’s for our family. What she thought was going to be a short visit turned into a 10 day stay to support us in all kinds of ways.

Thank you also to Penny Dixon and Dawn and Brian Byington and their family for hosting and taking care of every detail for the reception. It is so Mark’s style to have Skyline chili! He would have absolutely loved that!

Thanks to all my family and very special friends (so many of you) who swooped in to help with meals, beverages and thoughtful gestures. I learned a lot by how to help others through the ways that you all supported me.

Thank you for “loving us” through this hardship. It will be your love that carries us through to brighter days…and that for sure, will make Mark smile.

Big Hugs,

Becky and the Boys


Thank you all for the support and love surrounding of our family during this difficult time. We are humbled and grateful to be blessed in this way.

We wanted to share with you the plans for the service. It will be held on Thursday August 16th at  Montgomery Community Church located at 11251 Montgomery Road.

Visitation will be at 5:00 pm and the service at 6:00 pm. This will be followed by a reception at the church generously hosted by the Byington family. [NOTE ON TRAFFIC: During this time, traffic will likely be heavy so please plan accordingly]

In lieu of flowers, please make donations to the Schraffenberger Scholarship Memorial Fund, sent to Fifth Third Bank 7580 Beechmont Avenue, Cincinnati OH 45255.Reference account number 9976947102.

We invite you to join us in honoring and remembering him.

“What we have once enjoyed we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.” ~ Helen Keller

Much love and many thanks,

The Schraffenberger Family

Thank you for all the posts and prayers. We will be printing the blog into a keepsake book for our family. Being able to read them will offer us “tears of joy” knowing how much he was loved.


It is with a sad heart that we share the news that Mark passed away today. As much as we were prepared with all that’s going on, it was still unexpected.

He had started out well this morning and even had the opportunity to have a special visit by Ruben as we had a special exception made for him to come. I am grateful for that gift  along with the fact that Nick and Neil all had the chance to say good bye in their own way.

Of course, Mark was also surrounded by the love of his family – his mom Joan, Keith and Lisa and Julie.

I think his body was just worn out from all the “stuff.” He had tried so hard throughout this difficult journey. While it was very rough, we also shared some good moments together and for that I am grateful. He never lost his sense of humor.


He is a good man…an amazing father and a wonderful husband, brother and son. We will miss him dearly. We will post more about plans for the service.

Please also keep October 20th on your calendars for the Schraff Bash. It will be an opportunity to celebrate his life and all the lives he has touched. He will be looking on with a smile.

Love and thanks to all,



P.S. Our friend Becky Menyhert took this picture last week. I am so happy that she did.

Tough Times Continue

Hi Everyone,

I wanted to let you all know that things continue to be pretty tough. The two biggest risk factors associated with transplants are bleeding and infections. Mark is experiencing both.

From an infection stand point, they have identified two germs which they feel pretty confident can be addressed via antibiotics. And that looks to be the case, because his temperature remains intact.

From a bleeding standpoint, things are more tenuous. They did a CAT scan this morning thinking he may have bleeding the brain. The good news is that it showed only trace amounts. However, he does have what is called TTP which is a blood disorder that is creating havoc on his system and cause more internal bleeding. It is treatable but very serious.

Beyond that he is on support for his kidneys and a ventilator for his breathing so there is a lot going on. He is a fighter though, and the doctors and staff are doing all they can to address his ever-changing needs and care for him.

EXTRA  NOTE: Just wanted to clarify a bit about Mark’s condition. At the moment, things are very serious. He is unable to speak. Yesterday he was able to respond a bit, but was not able to today. The hope and intent is that after they rectify some of the critical issues that over the course of the next five days that he will be able to regain this and communicate more directly. There does not seem to be a concern of any permanent damage but more of a temporary response to all that his body is enduring.

Thanks for your prayers. Please keep him coming.


P.S. Right now, the focus is on Mark making through this “period of crisis.” However, I did want to share a heads up about an upcoming fundraiser that friends and family are hosting for us. It will be held on Saturday October 20th at Moeller High School.Please save the date on your calendars and check out the “SCHRAFF BASH FUNDRAISING PAGE” on the blog for ways in which you can help be a part of the experience and provide help. They will also be sending out an email to folks sometime this week. If you don’t get it and want to, you can shoot us an email at (capital S in Schraff) to be added to the distribution list.


Quick Update:

Mark made it through the chemo, but is battling an infection which is the biggest risk factor of this treatment. Over the weekend, he was really woozy and out of it.  Not knowing what to expect, I just kept asking “is this normal?” My gut was telling me “no.”  I think the infection started then, but didn’t surface more seriously until today in is blood work.

This morning they moved him to ICU and a multitude of doctors are doing all kinds of tests (kidney dialysis, liver tests, lungs etc.) to identify the source of infection and to treat it.  They also took out four liters of fluid from his abdomen which made him feel better and breathe easier. He is white blood count is at zero (that was expected) and the plan right now is to start the stem cell transplant tomorrow.  The silver lining is that they also did an MRI which showed that the chemo did reduce his tumors significantly, but he needs to make his way through this battle first.

So all that said, it is a very tough time right now and we do need prayers for healing.

“God, we ask that you hold Mark in your hands to comfort and heal him.”



Mark is finishing up chemo. They hit him hard with three major blasts and he is feeling the impact. The good news is that the cancer won’t know what hit it.

To say that he is tired and worn out is an understatement. He is not in pain or even nauseated…just the overwhelming sense of tired that you might experience with a bad case of the flu. He is doing his best to make it through though and even managed a walk down the hallway. They say that this fatigue will continue, and likely get even worse over the next five days. It is tough, very tough… but Mark is tougher and has his eye on the prize.

Considering the chemo part is done already it is hard to believe he has a month long hospital stay. He has the weekend “off to do what he pleases” within the confines of the Bone Marrow Transport Unit. So many options…watch tv, take a walk, check out the fish tank, do physical therapy etc.  Ooh the possibilities! On Monday they will start injecting the stem cells which will run over the course of next week. Then it will be all about recovery and getting stronger.

Besides finishing up chemo, today also marks another important milestone – our 27th Wedding Anniversary. No major plans beyond chemo cocktails and hospital cafes, but nevertheless something to celebrate. Like most (or maybe all) married couples, we’ve had our share of ups and downs and ins and outs. Yet, at times like this it makes me realize the value of what we share and appreciate it all the more.

We’re in this together….supported by all of you…and that LOVE will get us through.

Love, Becky



All went smoothly with the bone marrow harvest surgery yesterday and we found out this morning that Mark yielded a bumper crop. Apparently “4” was the magic number and they got “9” so plenty of cells to carry him through two transplants and some extra to spare.

He was admitted this morning to Jewish hospital and will start Round One of the Transplant process. Today will be a busy day of answering questions and getting the systems in place for his care. They will also start his chemo today. It will run over three days and then a day or two later they will start injecting his stem cells back into his body to be fruitful and multiply.  All in all, it will be about a month stay. The good news is that overall he feels pretty good and relatively strong heading into the treatment. His motto and mantra is, ”I am going to beat this thing.” One thing motivating him is that Darrin (my sister Laurie’s husband) arranged for a free round of golf at Pebble Beach for whenever Mark gets better.  The first thing he did (after crying) was check out the website which instantly pumped him up.

Mark with Icy

The boys are coping pretty well. Ruben sent him off with his stuffed animal (polar bear named Icy) to help keep him company and he helped him organize and pack his bag.  Ruben was sad to see Mark go (since he is too young to visit) but took comfort in the fact that I will be home every night and that we can connect via Skype.



The older boys have made a point of spending extra “dad time” leading up to this treatment (watching Reds games and the Olympics etc.) and also will be able to visit him during this stay.

On that note, Mark would welcome visitors from time to time. If you would like to come, please text Mark or me in advance and we can figure out when might work best based upon your schedules and how things are coming together for him. For the most part, his immunity will be very low though so we just need to be extra sure that everyone is healthy…no sniffles allowed.

If for whatever reason, a visit doesn’t work, no worries, just post a note on the blog or text him as that means a lot to him as well.  Rest assured that he is in great hands. The staff here is very competent while also very personable and caring. Yesterday, the surgery nurses sent him home with a gift for Ruben – a singing jalapeno pepper to make him smile while Mark was away! So sweet and so perfectly Ruben.

Thanks for all the prayers and positivity.

Lots of love, Beck


Well, apparently Mark is quite the stickler about wanting to hold on to his precious stem cells. After two days of being hooked up to a machine, he harvested just a wee bit of what he needs. In light of this, we need to move on to Plan B or C…or Z or whatever it is given all the twists and turns in his journey. The good news though is that we DO have a plan!

So now instead of drawing them through his blood, they are going straight to pulling it out of the bone marrow. The upside is this approach is that it should yield ample stem cells. The down side is that it is surgical procedure requiring general anesthesia and can make your pretty sore. He will go in on Tuesday for this procedure and on Wednesday will be admitted for chemo and his long stay.

While he is not thrilled about yet another surgery, it is manageable and his medical team has been great, working really hard to adapt and make changes quickly. He is also very fortunate that when they did the biopsy of his bone marrow just last week that it did not show any cancer so they should be able to get what they need. At least that’s the plan!

Until then, we will all enjoy the few days of rest and relaxation where he has an easier schedule with fewer appointments and tests. And he will be home to celebrate Ruben’s 10th birthday with the family. In times like these, gotta actively search for the silver linings.

Hope you all are having a great week.

Love Becky and Mark


Starting tomorrow, Mark will begin the process of stem cell harvesting to support all he needs for both rounds of transplant treatments. The harvesting process is done on an outpatient basis at Jewish hospital. We arrive at the wee morning hours of 6:45 am for blood work and prep and then at 8:00 he sits in a recliner hooked up to a high tech machine that draws out blood, separates out his stem cells through a centrifuge process and then returns the blood to his body.  It takes most of the day, so he should be done by late afternoon. He will do this for 3-4 days and then on Friday will be admitted to the hospital for high dose chemo and recovery which lasts about 3-4 weeks.

During much of this time, there will be opportunity for visits for family and friends. While some days will be “off limits” when his white blood counts are low, for the most part he will be able to see and visit with folks for quick hellos and chats which I am sure will brighten his spirits. If you leave nearby and want to visit, just text or email me so we can do it on a day/time that works best.

The good news is that Mark is feeling relatively strong heading into the procedure. He has been walking farther, had the chance to shower (which has a dramatic impact on well being) and just do tasks on his own which is empowering.  He is also setting up his computer to be able to listen to music and pod casts and watch movies to help stay stimulated as much as possible. It is hard to say how much “down” time he will actually have though as based upon the daily schedule they shared, I think he will be very busy just doing all they require. In addition to all the on-going monitoring and staff visits, they want you showering and up and moving as much as possible. The usual challenge will be getting enough sleep which is a hard one to solve for…other than to try and get some cat naps in where you can.

All is all, things are going pretty smoothly. We are even starting to argue more which in an ironic way, is probably a positive sign of healthiness. Maybe that and the fact we have been together nearly 24/7 since past January!

He has been very brave through this all and continues to have his sights set on a full recovery.  To get to this mind set so quickly after all the ups and downs, requires tremendous personal perseverance and fortitude. Yet it also reflects and is enabled by the love, encouragement and support that surrounds him.  Thanks for being there to lift him and our family up. Too cliche to say you are the “wind beneath our wings”? I think so, but I said it anyway.

Thanks. B


Thanks so much for all the prayers and posts. You really warmed our hearts and helped renew our spirits. Your prayers also literally showed up on the scans as the transplant coordinator called tonight to say that the MRI showed that the largest tumor decreased in size so it is full stream ahead with the plans for transplan! Yeah!

She gave us a tentative calendar and pretty much every day is filled with “something” but happy to be moving forward. In a nutshell, here’s what the broad timing looks like – at least for now.

  • Kicking off this week with tests/stem cell harvesting
  • End of July through end of August – chemo and recovery in the hospital
  • September – recovery at home, MRI testing to assess progress
  • October – second round of chemo treatment in the hospital
  • November – recovery and scans/tests etc.
  • Thanksgiving and Christmas….much to celebrate

As we have become well aware, things can and often do change and with that I would expect this will be our focus until the end of the year. It’s a long haul…and feels a bit overwhelming, so we will we need remain focused on the mantra of…one day at a time…and likely sometimes even one moment at a time.

One thing that will really help is that we will be close to home and that everything (appointments, blood work, scans, stem cell harvesting, chemo, hospital stay etc.) will be done at Jewish hospital and their outpatient offices.

Just wanted to share the good news and thank you all for reaching out and reminding us of the love coming our way. It helped.

Beck and Mark


Moving Forward (we think)

Hi All,

All went smoothly at the doctor’s appointment this morning and it looks like we will be moving forward with plans for the stem cell transplant. It’s a little bit scary, but at the same time, very reassuring to be “doing” something.

Tomorrow Mark is scheduled for an MRI.  Assuming that the cancer held relatively steady  or improved slightly from the chemo, it will be a “go” for treatment. So  please visualize and pray for the cancer to have diminished in some way.  We are meeting with the transplant coordinator tomorrow  to iron out details. The goal is to do any remaining prep stuff this week, start with stem cell harvesting next week and then be admitted for the intense round of chemo and recovery. These are just tentative plans, but that’s the goal at least.

As we  head into the next phase, one thing that will help us stay strong and keep are spirits bright are your  continued and collective posts and prayers. If you haven’t posted for awhile, please keep ’em coming.

And if you are a “reader” but haven’t posted before, I encourage you to give it a try. To do so, just look at our latest post (the one at the top of the page) scroll to the end of it where it says number of replies and click on it. Scroll to the bottom and type in what you want to share. Please be sure to sign your name so we know who it’s from.

Thanks to all. Be back in touch with more firm plans soon.





A Little Bit Better Means a Whole Lot

HI All,

A quick hello to let you know that Mark is feeling a bit better…and we are finding that at times like this that a “little bit can mean a whole lot”.

Right now he is on the couch with his feet up, enjoying a homemade juice drink watching the Red’s.

The double vision thing makes it difficult to read, and the neuropathy thing in his hands makes it difficult to type but that doesn’t keep him from enjoying the Red’s. At least when they play well.

Another sign that he is feeling a bit better is that his appetite is picking back up. I noticed that when he does laps through the kitchen, he has been stopping to pick up a cookie on his way through. Since he can’t walk and hold it at the same time that he puts it in his pocket to save as a reward for when he is done. After all, that is a pretty good workout. Gotta refuel.

As Mark has been working on healing and I am focused on caretaking, we have had lots of help with caring for Ruben, running errands, making homemade meals and doing much needed yard work. Thanks to all who have reached out with helping hands and hearts. We appreciate it so very much.

In closing, I thought I would share a few pictures from the wedding of my niece Lisa and her beau Casey last weekend in Chicago. We were supposed to go as a family but the boys ended up making the trek on their own. It was a fabulous weekend and the boys had a blast. Thanks to my family who treated them to dinner, the hotel and a White Sox game. No surprise, Ruben ended up talking the pitching coach into giving him a ball.  [Note: photos are compliments of Kristen (another niece) who is a budding photographer.]

I will share an update early to mid week, once we reconnect with the doctor again.  Until then, wishes for a great weekend to all.


Kalyn, Lynn (my sister) and her husband Hank, Mark and Mallory





Neil and Ruben visiting Navy Pier with my sister Laurie and her husband Darrin and their two children Luke and Kristen

Lisa and Casey first dance

Ruben carrying out his duties as ring bearer

The Older Boy Cousins (Mark, Neil, Nick and Luke) looking oh so handsome

Mom and Dad Sell so happy 

Ruben with Lisa, a most beautiful bride

Let’s get the party started!



We’ve had about five days at home and Mark is holding his own.

On the good news front, he has gained a bit of mobility in his left leg. On Saturday and Sunday, we were using only the wheelchair and now he is able to get around through the help of a walker.  He has become quite adept at using it and is trying to build up strength by doing a few laps around the house sporadically throughout the day.

On the tougher end, he continues to deal with some of the other symptoms (double vision, weakness and fatigue, nausea and digestive issues) so managing those is our primary focus. We are trying and exploring all kinds of things to help him simply FEEL better. In fact my cousin Jim and his wife Barbara (who is a certified aromatherapist)  are sending a care package of aromatherapy products for us to try today in conjunction with all his standard meds.  We are hopeful that this holistic approach (getting up and moving around, and these combined treatments) will help to bring more comfort.  He is not in severe pain, just a great deal of discomfort which is a subtle, but albeit very important distinction.

No other big news to report on plans moving forward. We have a doctor appointment next Monday and will likely know more at that time. Although our main focus for the moment is managing his symptoms. The rest will come.

Thanks to all for your support and care,



Hi All,

Here’s a quick update on life at the Schraffs these days.

Mark finished his five day course of chemo and is happy to be back in the comforts of home. We’ve reconfigured a few things to better support his needs and make life at home a bit more manageable all the way around.  To say that life is tough for Mark these days is an understatement. It is tough to get bombarded with chemo. It is tough to be so confined and have to rely on others to do small tasks. It is tough to feel so worn out when you so want to feel better. It is tough to have to deal with the highs and lows of the situation and constantly changing realities. Yet, he is coping with all these challenges in usual Mark style.  He is appreciative of the people who care for him, always sharing a kind “thank you” for the help he receives. He still cracks a joke now and then to lighten the mood and make us all smile. When people visit, he asks, and truly cares, how they are doing. He rarely complains – a feat I have yet to master. He is able to express his emotion and let the tears flow. Yet he also manages to muster up the resolve to just ‘get ‘er done’ when it’s needed.  He is committed to staying strong and doing all he can to support his own healing and recovery. At the same time, he is working through how to best open himself up to putting his faith and trust in God’s hands. We are finding this is something that is much easier to say than truly do…but we are trying.

It is tough on all of us too, but in a very different way.  We are just doing our best to “love on him” and support him the best that we can. On one hand, it is a very personal experience.  On another hand he can and does draw comfort from all the love and support that surrounds him and our family.

A friend who’s had similar experiences offered the suggestion to simply meet Mark where he is on the path and let him know that we believe in him and are here to share the burden. I think that was great advice and what I am trying to do.


Love to all,


Big Blessing Boost

Thank for holding us in your hearts and for your collective outpouring of love, generosity and kindness.  The support of family and friends near and far has been a “big blessing boost” to our weary spirits and is amazing source of comfort.

As I know you are concerned for Mark, I wanted to share a quick update about how things are coming along.

Plans are in the works for Mark to move forward with the stem cell transplant. In fact, we got word last night that it was approved by insurance. Wahoo! The transplant staff expected this to be the case, but having the official word puts our minds at ease.  We are very fortunate and extremely grateful.

What is changing a bit is the timing.  Given the aggressiveness of the cancer and Mark’s condition, they opted to do a regular round of chemo first to “knock it down a notch” and give him some relief of symptoms. This goal is to thwart it enough to give him back some movement in his left leg and minimize things like headaches and such.  On that note, he was admitted yesterday to Jewish hospital in Cincinnati where he is getting a 5 day treatment. Then we will need to wait a few weeks for him to recover and give his blood a chance to normalize and then start up with the stem cell to really kick it the cancer in the %$#@! (that’s the “beat ‘em up becky in me” talking).  The stem cell transplant is set up as a two part process. Part one takes about a month, and assuming all goes well (which means Mark can handle and the tumors shrink/react to chemo) he would come home for a few weeks and repeat the process a second time.  So we still have a long road ahead, but nevertheless there is a path and some glimmers of sunshine and hope on the horizon.

While it is good to look forward, we have also learned the value of focusing on the “now of the present moment.” So at this very moment, know that Mark is resting pretty comfortably. He is eating and getting hydrated. He is not in any significant pain and he is getting good care.

He just peeked his head over to me and said, “say hello to everyone one from me…and be sure to say thanks!”

Enjoy the day with friends and family.


Heavy Hearts

It is with heavy hearts that we share news about Mark’s battle with cancer. Last week he experienced some significant leg twitching and numbness which led us to the ER in Cincinnati and then a trip to Indianapolis. Over the weekend he underwent more tests which revealed that the testicular cancer has spread to his brain and potentially an area on his spine.  Having been told multiple times that he was “cancer free” or at least very close to it, this news came as a complete shock. In that one moment, everything changed. All Mark wanted to do is come home and be with our boys. And so we did.

We are still reeling from the news and just trying to come to grips with this new reality as we are able.  At the same time given the aggressiveness of this type of cancer, it is not something we can just “sit” with to let it sink in. The bottom line is that aggressive cancer requires aggressive treatment.

So the plan is to proceed with what is called an autologous stem cell transplant. In a nutshell, this is a treatment whereby they take stem cells from your body (which promote the building of your white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets) and freeze them. Then they give you very high doses of chemo (5-6 times higher than what he already had) and then the re-inject your stem cells back into your body to help it rebuild and recover. It is a tough and arduous treatment, but that is what’s required at this point. We are not getting into the prognosis and percentages and things, seems a bit meaningless.  For some it can lead to a total cure; for others it isn’t as effective. Based upon the favorable reaction to the chemo in his lungs and retroperitoneal gland, there is hope that his brain /spine would also respond in kind. The reason that it didn’t before is because the brain has a built in protection against invaders like chemo and much higher doses are required to penetrate it.

For Mark, it is a measure of hope. At the young age of 48, he is willing and wants to do all that he can to fight for his life. We take solace in knowing that they wouldn’t recommend him for it, if there wasn’t’ a reasonable chance. It is that ray of hope that is keeping him and us looking forward.

Plans have been set in motion to make things happen quickly. We have spent this last week talking with the docs and getting a battery of tests (blood work, kidneys, heart, etc.) to ensure his body is where it needs to be to support him through it. Then he will move into a week of harvesting his stem cells and then into chemo and recovery. All in all, it will take about a month, most of which will be inpatient at Jewish hospital. We are grateful that they have the capabilities to do this so close to home, one small silver lining in this all.

Our emotions are raw. One of the tough parts to accept is that we had asked for a brain scan early on, but because it is so rare and because he was not presenting neurological symptoms they did not do it. I so wish we would have pushed harder. It is really tempting to get caught up in the frustration of shoulda, woulda, coulda… but at the same time we realize it doesn’t help or magically make things better.

What does help is the outpouring of love and support we are receiving. We cry A LOT every day from the sadness of the situation and from just being worn down. Yet, there are also many tears of appreciation for all the love and kindness coming our way.  While it doesn’t fix things, it does bring much comfort.

Thank you for the help with Ruben during all the appointments, to the gifts of money to help make ends meet, to the meals and gift cards that help sustain us and let us focus on what is most important. At the hospital, the staff asked us if we have a good support system, and we felt so blessed to say…”it’s more than good…it’s great”. There are no words to describe how grateful we are to each and every one of you,

Please keep our family in your prayers.

With love, Becky and Mark


Well, every time we seem to come to a good stopping point, yet another hurdle appears. We continue to relearn  the lesson that this is more of a marathon than a sprint. This time the hurdle is something called ascites – a gastroenterological term for an accumulation of fluid in the peritoneal cavity. So while per my earlier post, we found “necrosis” to be such a wonderful word, we are not so fond of “ascites.” In layman’s terms, after surgery Mark’s abdomen kept on expanding because of leaky lymph nodes that produced more fluid that his body could absorb. This is something that can happen with the surgery, and not super serious, but it can be a “pain” for all kinds of reasons. The first and most obvious is that it becomes extremely uncomfortable. Ask any pregnant woman – maybe of quadruplets! It put a lot of pressure on his back so that he couldn’t sleep or hardly move without pain. To diagnosis and treat this they did a CAT Scan and then put a drain in his stomach where they emptied nearly 10 pounds of fluid which as you can imagine provided instant relief. He said he went from an “8 or 9” on the 1-10 pain scale to about “3” in a matter of minutes.

He has been admitted and they will monitor him overnight. Thank goodness he has a private room. (small blessings!). The other thing that makes it a “pain” though is that it is very  unpredictable.  Some people who had the surgery don’t experience it. Others might experience it just once, and for others it may continue on for quite awhile until the body adjusts. If that happens, he would have to come back and go through the cycle again (perhaps multiple times) and if needed get food intravenously. We are not jumping that hurdle just yet, and hope to avoid it, but recognize that it might be a possibility. On the positive side, we will monitor it closely and treat it before it gets too far…or in this case his stomach gets too big!

With all things considered, I just asked him if he was still happy that he did the surgery and without hesitation he said, “yep – still worth it.”

So there ya go. He jumped over another one today and hoping to break through the finish line to good health very soon.



Prayers answered!  Praise God. 

We got the pathology report back and have great news to share. The biopsy showed that it was just “necrosis” (aka scar tissue) which is the best possible result we could expect.  Tears of joy!

We are very grateful and relieved. As it turns out, with these results he may not have needed the surgery. However, just “knowing” that it is not teratoma or active cancer will make a huge difference in Mark’s outlook so it well worth every surgery staple and bit of temporary pain. This way, as he experiences the natural ups and downs of the recovery process, he can just go with the flow versus having to worry about what it is and if the cancer is coming back.  In fact the docs said that with this result the likelihood of it returning  is close to a zero. Considering where he was in December, this is truly a miracle. They will still monitor and such, but we can let go of the worry and begin moving forward. 

We recognize that it will take some time (recovery is expected to be about 4-6 weeks), but the key is that we are moving in the right direction.   Given as though we both have not worked out in about 6 months (or longer) this will give us some incentive to get back in shape. Don’t imagine that P90X will be on the list, but more dog walks and everyday normal stuff.

Thanks again for all the support, prayers and encouragement that boost our spirits. Along these lines, we got a little help this week from the 10 & under baseball team. Apparently, Ruben asked Coach Fehr (our friend and baseball coach) if they could dedicate last night’s game to Mark. (such a hoot – that’s Ruben, making an “event” out of anything and everything!)




Whether inspired by a “one for the gipper” type speech (or the treats they would get at the end), they ended up winning 14-6.  Apparently, they started out slow but came on strong at the end…a perfect metaphor indeed.


With big smiles and grateful hearts, we look forward to brighter days ahead.

Love, Becky and Mark


Hi Everyone,

Thank you for all the prayers and good wishes. Just wanted to pass on a quick update to let everyone know that Mark’s surgery went smoothly.

While I have not had the chance to see him yet, I did have the opportunity to talk with Dr. Beck (gotta love his name!). He said that all went as predicted without a hitch. He removed what he termed “a few small masses” in his lymph nodes that were attached to the vena cava that big vein that carries blood from the lower body to the heart. He said that portion of the vein was fully blocked (occluded in his terms from the cancer) and pretty much not functioning so that part of it is removed. His body has already adapted and found alternate pathways and the doc thinks this will help even more with blood flow so that’s a bonus. They send the “stuff” (how it is that for a medical term) to pathology and we find out more details later in the week. It is most likely scar tissue or teratoma (benign cancer that can create problems down the road). Either of these are manageable to deal with it. More to come once these results come back.

For now, I am just grateful that we are done with this step and look forward to a full recovery and dancing with him at Lisa and Casey’s wedding.

Thanks again for all the love and support that surrounds us. We are very blessed indeed in ways that can’t be measured but that truly count.

Love and Hugs, Becky

Milestone Moments

Hi All,

We just got back from walking the dogs on this beautiful Sunday morning.  It gave me some time to reflect. I can’t imagine getting through this long journey without such wonderful family and friends.  God has truly blessed me.

We have been busy since the last blog entry.  Nick’s graduation was last Thursday.  Becky’s parents made the trip from South Bend.  They, along with my Mom, helped us celebrate the big day. It is hard to believe that he will be off to college at University of Maryland in August. It’s a long trek and we will miss him, but share in his excitement of being a Terp and look forward to lots of visits.


We are proud of him (and Neil and Ruben) and recognize that this has been a very tough year on them too. We’ve enjoyed the festivities of going to grad parties, seeing the kids all “grown up” enjoying the milestone moment of this last hurrah before setting out on their own new adventures.  We have one final party this afternoon with some very dear friends and then looking forward to a nice quiet night with the whole family.  I can’t think of a better way to spend this last day at home before surgery.

Becky and I head off to Indianapolis tomorrow.  We meet with the surgeon on Monday, and then need to be at the hospital at 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning.  I have to say that I am a little nervous about the operation, but I am confident we are at the right place with the right doctors.  Besides removing the lymph nodes, the surgery will involve the removal and reconstruction of a portion of the main vein that serves the lower extremities.  The vein is clotted and I am hoping this will relieve the discomfort I am having with my legs.  I am determined to dance at my niece’s wedding in July; given my awkward dancing style the boys are not as excited about this goal as I am.

Thanks to family and friends who will be watching Ruben while we are away and all the notes, emails, gift cards, meals, money and prayers from all. It is so appreciated and means a lot! Please continue to keep us in your prayers this week as we go through a “milestone moment” of our own. We will share updates throughout the week.

God Bless,



Having cancer is not exactly like running a marathon.  Although both seem endless sometimes, in a marathon after 26.2 miles you know you are finished.  Cancer sometimes moves the finish line.  I thought I had crossed the finish line last Friday, but it looks like I have one more lap.  So after 2 surgeries, 4 rounds of extensive chemotherapy, 6 blood transfusions, 3 platelet transfusions,  too numerous to count shots in the stomach, and endless doctor visits, I am scheduled for surgery on June 5.  Although my oncologist was confident I was in full recovery, he did say that he wanted to confer with two surgeon/urologists in Indy as there can be some nuances in reading the CT scans.  He said that it was rare that they didn’t concur, but this is one time they weren’t on completely on the same page.  The surgeons were concerned about a couple lymph nodes that were a little suspect.  In order to be super safe, they recommended removing the lymph nodes.

The procedure is called retroperitoneal lymph node dissection (try to say that three times fast).    Of course, the lymph nodes are located in an extremely difficult location to reach.  It is a major operation, but the doctors performing the operation do more of these than anyone in the world.  I have total faith in the doctors, and given everything else I have been through, it seems like a breeze.

One thing markedly similar about the marathon and our cancer journey is the constant support throughout the journey.  Friends and family handing out food and drinks, shouting out words of encouragement, and almost literally pushing you toward the finish line.  Thanks so much for helping us along this marathon and one more lap.  We couldn’t do without you.




Hi to the Schraff Blog Family, 

We have some SPECTACULAR news to share! In the words of his doctor, Mark is in “complete recovery” which means the scans of his lungs are clear and his lymph nodes have normalized. There are no signs of cancer and no need for surgery. Wahoo!

Thanks for all your prayers and support. Miracles do happen!

All that he needs to do from here on out is get stronger and feel better!! Dr. Hanna said, he should be back to 80-90% in a few more weeks or so. We could not be any more thrilled, thankful, relieved or elated. We FEEL it all. We know that you SHARE in our joy as we received text replies and greetings…from “Soooooooo wonderful….to Praise Jesus to “it’s time to celebrate and boogie.”  All are in order!

There is a rigorous monitoring process given the intensity and aggressiveness of this type of cancer. The doctor felt that it likely started up about the same time Mark felt the initial symptoms (late October/early November) so it was moving fast and furious which makes us all the more THANKFUL that we got to make our way to Indy when we did. God’s hands in action.

For the first year, Mark will be set up to get tests, x-rays and blood work every two months under the care of his local oncologist, Dr. Kirlin in Cincinnati. There is a 10-15% the cancer could come back within the first year.  However, once Mark passes the first year benchmark, it goes down to 2% and keeps getting lower. We’ll take it! While the first year is the most critical, he will continue to be monitored quite a bit for the first 5 years which is something he is most happy to do!  The only medicine he will be taking is Coumadin for the blood clot which he will likely be dealing with over the next year as it was really extensive in one leg. Again, we’ll take it.

It was a great ride home. It certainly is time to celebrate and give thanks…for Mark’s health and all the love and support we have received along the way. We are initially thinking about hosting a party in the June timeframe. More to come on that as we figure out plans! Get ready to boogie!

Thanks to ALL who have travelled this journey with us. Your love and kindness made all the difference in the world as it brightened our days, lightened the load and carried us through. We will be forever grateful.

Becky, Mark, Neil, Nick and Ruben


HI All,

Hope you are enjoying the day wherever you are. It’s a beautiful, sunny day here. We went to church and then off to a lacrosse game to watch Ruben play.  The game ended in a tie, which actually is what I consider to be a perfect ending. My older boys beg to differ. In my view everyone wins. They would say no one does.  Well, Ruben didn’t seem to mind to have much an opinion either way, as he was just really happy that his brothers came to watch him play and that he got to go hang with friends afterwards.

The reason I am writing though isn’t about lacrosse or my “dare to tie” mentality, but rather to provide a quick update on how Mark is doing and feeling these days.  In a one word nutshell – good.   Not great, not bad…but a very solid good. The biggest difference from the chemo days is that he has more energy. And while he isn’t up for the rigors of a round of golf, he is easing back into action of everyday living.

In fact, the reason I am writing the blog and he is not, is because he is out backwashing the pool.  That is the kind of thing that defines good for him these days.  A few other milestone moments…going to the grocery store, driving himself to appointments, and even doing a few work related things.

One thing that was really nice was going out to dinner as a family – the first time we have done that since Thanksgiving! So as Ruben would say, his “normal dad” is back – or at least you might say Mark is half-normal these days.

On Friday, we head back to Indy for the scan and see what’s next.  It will be nice for him to WALK in the doors wheel-chair free.  Mark will get the scans done first and then by the time we make it from one part of the hospital to the other, the doctor will have reviewed his scans and be ready to discuss them and where we go from here.  Based upon how he is feeling, we are cautiously optimistic. As before our prayers are for crystal clear scans which show that he is cancer free. Or, if they see anything that it is scar tissue or just itt- bitty cells that they choose to monitor.  However, there is a chance that it is mostly gone but that surgery is needed. And while not ideal, it just means there is another step along the journey.

Please keep Mark in your thoughts and prayers this week. We will send an update next weekend with how things went in Indy.  Until then, hope that you all have a “llfe is good” week.

Love and hugs,



Thinking of you two right now as Mark is having his scan…


Spring as sprung… and landed in our yard in a big way!

Yesterday neighbors of all ages descended upon our house, greeting us with shovels, rakes, weed-eaters, axes, clippers, a truck full of mulch and lots of helping hands. Everyone pitched to spruce things up, beautifying our yard and brightening our spirits.

Morganstrace Families to the Rescue

Where Tim and his son Nick left off (in their earlier visits), our Morgans Trace “family” finished up, with clipping, edging, mowing, weeding and the like. Thanks to Jenny for organizing the plans, to Bryan for arranging his crew, and for EVERYONE who helped contribute  in some way to this amazing group effort of generosity.

What a gift to get that thing out! Thanks Guys!

They even removed a gnarly old tree stump in the middle of our landscaping.  While not easy, five strong, burly men worked for an hour to take it out, load it on a truck and haul it away. I am envisioning that someday we will put a fountain there and will be continually reminded of their hard work and kind gesture.  Next week’s project perhaps? (ha-ha!!]We are so grateful, so very grateful. Thank you all for travelling this journey with us – for being there to hold us up and help us out… sometimes in ways we didn’t even realize we needed.

As we celebrate this Easter holiday – we feel God working in our lives and inspiring in us a real a sense of renewal, rebirth and hope. Looking out our windows, we will smile and be reminded of that Saturday in April whenever came together to help us out.

Lots of hugs and thanks, The Schraffs

A “Spring” in My Step

Lying (or is it laying, I never get that right) in my bed last night I was thinking back to those nights in December right after I was diagnosed.  Those were some really tough and scary nights of feeling crummy  combined with the anxiety of not knowing what it was or what to do. I prayed each day for the strength to get through. The road ahead seemed very steep and unpredictable.   I wasn’t sure if I would ever make it to the place I am now.  I know the journey is not over, but now, as each day goes by, I feel a little stronger.  This also shows in my regular blood work as for the first time in months my blood counts were just “low” versus critically low. Things are moving in the right direction.   What a great feeling. Thanks to you all for travelling the hard times with me. It’s made all the difference in the world. From the cards, gift cards, meals, yard work, carpools, help with the boys, money, car on loan, home repairs, visits, emails, blog posts and prayers…lots and lots of prayers….I am truly grateful. Becky and I never realized until now how important these all are.

Along these lines, one thing that living with cancer has taught me is to enjoy the little things.   A few things I was able to do this week, that didn’t seem so little to me:

  • Driving myself to the doctor
  • Wearing jeans instead of lounge pants – the nurse at the oncologist office said “You look so much better now that you are in regular clothes vs. in a wheel chair wearing sweats” [now I get how all you women feel about getting back into jeans after having a baby!]
  • Walking the dogs down to the corner and not having to stop and catch my breath
  • Having enough energy to watch an entire movie with Becky
  • Being able to make it to Ruben’s lacrosse games
  • Hanging with my friend Tony at a track meet

I look forward to enjoying the nicer weather with a little “spring” in my step and in my heart and in my faith.   Hoping you all can do the same.

God Bless,



P.S.:     As always, there are too many people to thank for all you have done for us.  We are eternally grateful.


P.S.S.: Spell check confirmed it is “Lying in bed . . .”


Yesterday was my final day of chemo.  What a great feeling it was walking out of the treatment center for the last time.  It is definitely a reason to celebrate!

It has been a long, tough road and I know it is not over, but I am so excited to start the healing process.  My blood counts are still really low and the doctors will be monitoring me very closely for the next week, so I am still feeling tired.  I may need another blood transfusion or a dose of platelets.  The good news is that my counts should start to rebound now that I won’t be getting any more chemo. It certainly makes a difference knowing that you are not getting stronger just to get knocked down again.  My focus now is renewed ENERGY – something I pray for daily.

I am scheduled to go back to Indianapolis on April 20 for scans to determine if any – surgery is needed.  I feel very confident about good results, especially given all the prayers I have received from friends and family.

I know I have said it before, but Becky and I are truly overwhelmed with the amount of support we have received through this long journey.  You all have made this difficult time so much easier and we are truly grateful.  For example, in addition to our weekly food angels (thanks Jen and Rachelle!)…

* Our long time friend Tim made two trips from Anderson to help get the yard in shape. One of them his son Nick came to help too. Based upon this picture, I am not so sure Nick shared Tim’s enthusiasm for helping in this way, so thanks for your sacrifice!

* Our boys get to have some spring break fun!  Today Nick flew to Fort Lauderdale thanks to a special invite from our good friends the Bieggers. And thanks to our neighbor Jenny, Ruben is heading to Nashville  where het will hang with his buddy Andrew and his brother Kyle and on the way back enjoy a side trek to check out Mammoth Cave.

Thanks also to the Anaples, you also invited Ruben to join them- even though we didn’t realize it at the time.  Neil is heading back today from a road trip to Florida with all his frat buddies. Our gift will be that he had fun, but also makes it  home safe and sound. No matter how old they get, ya still worry. I expect it is also a reflection of  our own personal Florida spring break experiences way back when.  All kidding aside, we are grateful that the kids get the much needed opportunity to have some fun and relax. It has been a long haul for them too!

And a big shout out of thanks to the Fischers for letting us borrow their car. When weshared our need, they called us immediately and said we could use any of their cars for as long as we needed. How awesome is that and how awesome are they! And to top it off, it is a BMW convertible. The silver lining is that I don’t need to worry about the wind blowing my hair  I just gotta hold on to my hat!

As I get stronger, I look forward to walking the pups, enjoying the sunshine, and hanging with all of you. As I mentioned earlier, playing golf sounds mighty good too. However, this summer I think I will be setting my sights on golf of the miniature variety instead. Baby steps. Until then, I am just enjoying what I can do…and the fact that I can be home with family to enjoy the “stuff” of life.  Hope you all are too!


Weekend Cheer

Things are looking bright with only one more dose of chemo to go during this last stay in Indy. Mark is doing well, and even though still tired, is overall in good spirits.  He did get a blood transfusion to help boost those blood cells and hopefully his energy too.

A big treat for us was hanging out with our friends, Pam and Greg Fischer who came in for a weekend visit.  In usual Fischer style, they came armed with magazines, games and beverages and treats of all kinds and even brought cookies for the nurses. Not sure if that made us look good (because they are our friends)  or bad (as we have never brought them before), but their sweet gesture was certainly appreciated. We enjoyed catching up and as always, shared lots of laughs which is powerful medicine for the heart and the soul. At night when Mark was ready to snooze, they treated me to the best (and most sinus clearing) shrimp cocktail with horseradish I’ve ever had at St. Elmos. If you are ever in Indy, try it out. (Hank, you would love it.). Sunday morning, while Pam and I got in some exercise, Greg brought us all breakfast and the Sunday morning paper. What a treat. Thank YOU!!!

Tonight, as a gift to Mark, Shari is having me over to her place for a home cooked meal and to watch is supposed to be the most dramatic and shocking Bachelor finale ever!  Yes, it is awful and I am crazy to watch it, but for whatever reason, I am hooked. The reason it is a gift to Mark is so that he isn’t held captive in the hospital room during the two hour duration. Not to mention, the “after the rose” show. : ) Mark passes on his most genuine and sincere thanks to Shari.

Speaking of thanks, big hugs and thanks to the Dohertys, Kings and Kisselas for hosting Ruben while we are away. I know it adds an element of “extra stuff” to your already busy worlds, so thanks for so generously opening up your hearts and home to him. It makes what could be a hard time, something to enjoy. What a gift.

Perhaps inspired by all this great spring weather, we are feeling rather optimistic and hopeful. Mark is so ready to get stronger  knowing that (other than a few mini doses in Cinci) he is almost done with this challenging chemo phase. Let the healing begin!



The Final Four of Chemo

HI All,

We are back in Indy for Mark’s fourth and final round of chemo!! At least for the most part. What we are learning in this journey, is the value and the need to “go with the flow.” So here’s the latest and greatest scoop…as of today, anyway.

Mark with Dr. Hanna Simon Cancer Center

We met with Dr. Hanna who we highly trust and respect.  He said because that because of the havoc the chemo has been having on  Mark’s blood (white, red, and platelets) he recommended to adjust one of the drugs to make it a bit easier on his system.

He will get treated in Indy, but it will also require that he goes to the local Oncologist for two quick follow-up visits (30 min to an hour) for a chemo boost.The intent is that he will be able to rebound a bit quicker and won’t need to do the added infusions.

The other piece of different news is that he won’t be getting the scans after this visit. I had only talked with the nurse prior to our visit and the doctor shared with us today that Mark won’t be getting scans this visit, but rather is scheduled to come back for those in six weeks (April 20th) once the chemo has time to take full effect and he has regained some strength. That was a bit of a mindset adjustment, but that’s the way it goes…and where the “go with the flow” comes into play. There is probably a 50/50 chance he will need surgery…with perhaps a slight edge to not needing it. While they will do a chest, abdomen and pelvic cat scan, the focus for surgery would be on the lymph nodes in his abdomen.  If they find any remaining masses (the size of a nickel or larger) they would schedule surgery. If it turns out to be teratoma (one of types of germ cell that is not reactive to chemo) they will remove it. They will do this area first to determine what it is and then move on to the lungs separately if needed. Based upon the initial x-ray the lungs looked pretty darn good though. So the bottom line is that we won’t know for a while.

With that said, our immediate goal is for Mark to make it through this final round with flying colors and rebound as quick as possible. Our long-term goal are crystal clear scans resulting in a full recovery and complete cure. Along those lines, thank you for your  prayers, intentions, visualizations and wishes!  As an added boost of healing power, our friends Tim and Kay Jabin brought Mark some blessed water from Lourdes, France that Mark is applying during this final round. Mark offered some to me for my own stress relief. I am not sure if he was suggesting this more for my benefit or for his in having to live with me. Nevertheless, my point of view is that cancer trumps stress so I will leave the holy water to him and will try deep breathing exercises instead.

Those are some of the nitty-gritty details. The big picture view is that Mark is feeling pretty good…and even through the twists and turns, and rugged detours he has traveled,  we remain optimistic about his ability to come through this and land in a better place.

Until then, we will settle in and watch some basketball. That always brings a smile to his face. Good luck on your brackets! We are trying to figure out how we are going to get ours done while we’re here…as we have a friendly competition every year with a little bit of money and a whole lot of pride at stake.

Hugs, Beck


Crystal Clear

HI All,

A quiet Friday night –it’s only 9:30 and Mark’s already snuggled into bed. He needs the rest. We are finding that the “cumulative” thing they were talking about is settling in. He is doing “OK” – just very tired. He struggled this week with some fevers and low blood counts. Between antibiotics and some more infusions we hope that he will rebound over the weekend so that he can enjoy a few days before we head back to Indy. We head out next Friday (March 9th) for the fourth and final round. At the end of the treatment, they will scan him to see where we go from here. There is a possibility that if they find any residual masses that a follow up surgery would be required in either his lungs or in retroperitoneal gland in his abdomen. Germ cell cancer is a bit complicated in that it is made up for four types of cancers. Three of them are eradicated by chemo. One of them, called teratoma is not. We do not know what types he has. If they find any masses left, of a significant size they would do surgery in about 4-6 weeks. In that case, at the time of surgery they may find that it was just scar tissue or this teratoma. Our hope though is that this isn’t needed and that the chemo did its job. So we ask for your prayers! Please pray and envision Mark coming out of this fourth round with renewed strength, revitalized energy  and healthy organs that are “crystal clear.

As I personally reflect on this journey, I find that it has been very tough. From the anxiety of the initial diagnosis and they way he found out (in the lobby at a noisy basketball game), to the physical pain, to the “not knowing” what type of cancer we were dealing with, to the surgeries and complicating blood clots, to a heartbreaking Christmas, to the trip to Indy that turned into an unexpected inpatient visit, to the multiple rounds of treatments, to the financial implications, paperwork and worries, it has been a lot to handle and sometimes very scary. And yet, even though overwhelming at times, what comes to me most, is that we have never once felt alone. We have been surrounded by support in ways big and small. We have been touched and lifted up by so many kind gestures, soft words, generous offers and big sacrifices from so many in our circle of caring.  It has deepened our friendships, strengthened our family and renewed our faith. In all these ways, we feel very blessed indeed.

With a grateful heart,


So Far…So Good

Hi All,

Hope everyone is doing well. With three days on the home front, we are getting back into the swing of things. Mark is doing pretty well with no major issues or complaints…so far – so good. He got his neulasta shot to boost the white cells and we go back on Monday to see how this red ones are doing. The good news is that tonight he felt well enough to join me for the second half of Ruben’s final bball game.It was one of their best games of the season. Thanks boys.

The team was so sweet to make this get well card for him. It looks just like him don’t ya think… “fro” and all. It’s hard to believe Mark at one time did actually have a full head of curly hair. (see below).The team also gave us some gift cards which we will definitely use and enjoy. Thank you all and a special thanks to Dee Harris and Erin Shulhom for coaching and for all the carpool rides to practices and games.

Here’s Curly-haired Mark. Doesn’t he look quite studly in this photo. Still does, even without the hair.

How about those short shorts!

On a very different topic, but albeit important and greatly appreciated are all the yummy meals we continue to be gifted. Thanks this week to Holly, Sharon, Shirl and our weekly delivery planned for tomorrow by Glory. I haven’t cooked in months. What a blessing these meals have been for our family. Thank YOU!

Along those lines, Nick has made a change of diet plans – at least temporarily. He is doing his senior capstone project on “veganism” and as part of it, is following a vegan diet for about a month. Yes, I know many of you probably think we Schraffs are crazy. And that indeed may be true, but we are keeping it going at least for Mark, Nick and me.  Sorry to all those contributing to our “meals on wheels” as I recognize that it makes it more challenging for everyone. We are so dang demanding. Sorry. For anyone on the list who is racking their brain on what to make,  here’s a few ideas….pasta and red sauce or toppings that aren’t meat/cheese based, orzo,  veggie soup, pizza with peppers, onions and mushrooms and vegan cheese (yes there is such a thing),  rice and beans, burritos, roasted veggies, veggie egg rolls and rice or Indian type dishes, veggie subs or wraps, salad and fruit. Of course, Ruben won’t mind at all if you choose to go with a more traditional offering!

Okay, enough of all this food talk. This hasn’t been the most stellar of my posts, but I do have a funny story that may bring out a chuckle or two. I am still laughing about it. The back drop is in going through chemo, there is a lot of talk about “chemo brain” and how it can be really hard to focus and fire on all pistons so to speak. What I didn’t realize is that “chemo brain” is highly contagious and that I apparently got hit with it pretty hard.  Here’s the proof. Today I had to run up to Nick’s school with a check and a form for something. As I dash out, I am a bit harried fishing through my purse for keys etc. At the same time, I called Mark from my cell. As I am talking to him, I say “hold on…I need to make sure that I have my phone!” He’s like “what?”.  I say, “wait a sec, gotta call you back while I look for it.” I proceeded to look for my phone in my purse until I realized I was using it. Scary I know, but  I haven’t laughed that hard since before Mark’s diagnosis. I think God was laughing too! Hope it makes you smile too. Sometimes that’s all we can do.

Smiles and Hugs,


P.S. Thanks Shari for treating me to dinner while in Indy. You have been such a sweetie. While I wish it were on different terms, it has been really great reconnecting. I am still peeved about that parking. Ridiculous.

Love and Laughter

HI All,

It was a really good day, thanks in large part to the “pick me up” visits from our friend Tony and my mom and dad.  Amidst all this cancer craziness, it felt good to just laugh and “be.”

As you can see in this picture, Tony and Mark had the opportunity for some special “Male Bonding” time. Who knows what transpired when I went on my walk!

In all seriousness Tony, it was great seeing you. We truly appreciate your making the trek from Cinci and spending time with us. You have been an amazing friend. Also, congrats to Antony on his scholarship offer for track/cross country at Dayton. Hope he loves it as much as we did.

We really enjoyed our time with my parents too. Your love and support mean the world to us. While not on his formal treatment plan and regimen, I think the Mountain Dew and the Brownies will put an extra pep in his step. (during his frequent trips to the bathroom). Seems to work for college students!



Another bright light in the day is that we are more than half way done of chemo for this visit. Just two more to go before we head back home again. He also got a blood transfusion today which hopefully means he can skip that step in Cinci when we get back. On this note, we want to share a BIG THANKS to the Kissela’s for hosting Ruben this time around. We are oh so grateful. You may need an extra boost of “something” when we pick him up on Tuesday night!

Smile and Hugs,

The Wrinkly Schraff Duo

When a Hang Nail Matters it’s a Good Thing

Greetings from Indy Simon Cancer Center. Doesn’t seem appropriate to say “wish you were here” but we do feel your collective support and spirit.

We’ve got the routine down now. Mark had his first wave of chemo at about 11 pm. The start time will move up every four hours so today he will start around 7 so hopefully that will make for a better night sleep. Otherwise pretty good though. Floyd, the night nurse said Mark’s vitals were great, much better than his own. (As an aside, I am no match maker, but even though I believe Floyd is single, I am guessing that he is not exactly what you were looking for Tony when you said to be on the look out for available nurses !)

Mark didn’t get any scans this time. The doc said that based upon the initial degree of disease that he will be on track to do a total of four treatment cycles. As he as started into his third, we are officially in the second half of the game. His lungs did sound ever so clear though and the doctor was pleased and feeling confident.

Right now we are watching golf and commented that he has caught “golf fever.” It must be highly contagious as many of his buddies seem to have caught it too.  I don’t know too much about medicine, but I think of all the diseases to get, it’s a good one. I think it helps combat cancer too. At least that is what Mark tells me.

We did learn another interesting fact during this visit. A nurse shared with us that in addition to all the other lovely consequences of cancer that it also “ages one in physical appearance by 8 years.”  So he has that going for him. It’s a good thing he is so handsome to begin with. : ) While not documented, I believe it has a similar aging impact on care-givers (at least that is what the mirror tells me) so rest assured we’ll be in good company. We laughed thinking that now instead of being 57 when Ruben graduates we will LOOK like we are 65! Botox may be in our future or more likely, just loads of wrinkles.

In the moment though, Mark is feeling pretty good. His only complaint has been a hang nail on his baby toe that’s bothering him. I took a picture of it to post, but upon looking at the image we decided to spare you all the sight. Nevertheless, it is comforting to know that this  minor thing is what stands out as an irritation. We’ll take it.

We are looking forward to some company with Tony making the trek from Cinci and my parents coming in from South Bend. Seeing and chatting with them will serve as a great dose of inspiration. The good news is that we don’t need to worry about “cleaning” our place. We can just enjoy it.

Happy Weekend Wishes!

Love you all,


Slam Dunk The Treatment and Whop Those Bad Cells

HI Everyone,

It’s me again. Just writing to say hello and let you know that we are gearing up for another trip back to Indy on Friday. It sure does come fast. Feels like we just put the suitcases away from our last trip. We are getting the routine down though and learning to perfect our packing with just what we need and not anything more. Ahhh the beauty of simplicity.

All in all,  Mark is in a good “place” heading into round 3. Although his blood counts are a bit wacky, his overall energy is pretty steady and he is feeling stronger than he has in months. The other good news is that he has been able to eat well and maintain his weight. On that front, thanks to all who have been making meals and sharing gift cards. It has made such a huge difference for us and doubly nice as we feel all the love behind it.

The paperwork (for health, college, taxes etc) is still a mountain, but we are scaling it and making good progress. We have experienced our moments of insanity, and saw ourselves getting caught up in the muck and stress of it all. Over the weekend, we have made a conscientious effort and commitment to ourselves and each other to stay positive and have faith that God will provide. This is too big for our hands and we need to trust and give it up to Him. Of course, it doesn’t mean that we won’t keep chipping away, we simply need to refocus on what we CAN do and not let the muck blind us from all the blessings.

Speaking of blessings, we have put Ruben in touch with a wonderful counselor at school who has experienced the challenges of cancer in her own life.  Talking with her has been a real comfort for him. Seeing her success also helps to reassure him that things will get back to” normal” some day.

To rally Mark on as he heads into the next round, Ruben and she made the attached poster for Mark with a message to “Slam Dunk Those Treatments and Whop those Bad Cells”. It was such a sweet thing to do, in all kinds of ways. We have it hanging in our family room, minus a few of the candies!

This will be our Round 3 Mantra!

Another Boost

Hi Y’All (as my southern friends would say)

Just wanted to share a quick update and let ya know how Mark is doing and how things are going these days. All in all, pretty good. We went to the local Oncologist on Monday to check his blood (white, red and viscosity for clots). It turned out that he needed another “Hemoglobin Pick Me Up.” So Tuesday he went for the day to get another transfusion. It was a similar cast of characters as his first visit, Mark and two other people in their 80’s. (Or maybe 90’s we couldn’t tell for sure). It really is hard to imagine that these are Mark’s counterparts. He said between the endless beeping (the guy to his right’s pulse was so low it continuously activated the alarm on his machine) and the gagging (the woman to his left’s reaction at lunch) -that  the six hours couldn’t go fast enough. On the bright side, while a “pain to do,” it doesn’t hurt and he did feel a boost in energy…making it all worthwhile.

He used his “energy-high” today to fill out FAFSA forms for college.  Ooooh go wild! It actually is quite exciting to me, as I’m not sure I could figure them out and am very grateful he can.  I imagine some of you can relate.

Other than mountains of paperwork woes, Mark is feeling pretty good. We go back on Friday for another set of lab work. On that front, here’s a little dose of humor.  On the last visit, he mentioned that he doesn’t like to get his “finger pricked” to draw blood. My response, was “are you kidding?  Two surgeries and two rounds of intensive chemo and you are apprehensive about a finger prick?” Go figure. We both laughed. And while he wasn’t kidding about the finger prick,  I will say that Mark’s trademark sense of humor is still very much in tact. That’s pretty amazing and impressive. If the situation was reversed and I was dealing with it, I expect my humor might be the first thing to go. My kids might argue that I didn’t have it to start with.I beg to differ.

On a more practical side of life,  I did want to “put out there” that we will be in search of a car for Mark relatively soon. The SUV he has been driving is a company car from his Dixon days and they are going to trade it in – so we will be needing to replace it sometime soon. And since Mark started his own practice and is now consulting for Dixon (versus employed by them), that’s for us to do. To be clear, I am not asking for any “big favors” – just wanted to put the word out in the event anyone knows or comes across a good “deal”  for a used car in good condition. As Mark is not doing much driving these days, we are not in a big rush.  Nick will also be going to college in the fall, and likely will not be taking his car right away we have that to consider in the mix as well. He was the first to offer that up which was sweet.  I actually enjoy driving his car, so Mark and I just may be “battling” for it.  Anyway, we would just appreciate folks keeping their “feelers” out and passing on any “can’t miss opportunities!”

I can’t tell you how much your support means to us. So many people say to us, “wow you have such a wonderful group of family and friends.” And our response, is “we know, and we are ooooh so grateful.” We thank God everyday for it and thank you all too!

Lots of love and big hugs,


All Things Considered

No big news to report. Everything is flowing smoothly.

Mark is doing well – all things considered. Writing that sort of reminds me of the “caveat compliment” women tend to get after 40. “She looks good…for her age”. In both of these situations, context matters.

So considering the context of two surgeries in December to diagnosis his issue and two rounds of intensive chemotherapy, I would say Mark is doing better than well, maybe even great. Tired – yep (no doubt), but no other major issues to report so we are grateful. Everyone has their own benchmarks for measuring progress. For Mark – it’s showers. Last round, he had to really work to take a shower every other day, and by the end his energy would be zapped. This time he’s 4 for 4, with a shower every day with relative ease. (again a bit of context setting). Any way, we have come to appreciate what a difference in your day a shower can make to brighten one’s spirits.

Other “day brighteners” this week were sparked by pop-in visits from friends. Thanks Pam and Greg for the video-on-demand movie delivery (you picked some great ones) and my very own “Beck’s Beer” for Super Bowl. Mark also enjoyed the opportunity for “guy-talk” with Mike and Tommy while I was out at Ruben’s bball game. I heard there were some interesting stories shared. And we always enjoy the visits from our “Saturday Gal” Glory – whose name so suits her bright morning-glory personality.

We also wanted to share a BIG thank you to Todd, who arranged for and gave us the amazing gift of “gutter repair and replacement.” Who would think a new gutter could be so beautiful, and as we found today in our rainy weather, functional too!

And of course, thanks to all our blog posters, card writers and gift card givers along with our “foodies” who spoil us in a good way with spectacular meals. Thank you to everyone who has “gifted” us in all these ways. It means more than we can say.

What we can say is that we wish you all a great weekend…in whatever “context” works for you.

Love and Hugs,


Home Sweet Home

Round Two – Done!

Mark made it through with flying colors. Pain free, nausea free, infection free – it’s a chemo treatment trifecta. As he had quite a bit of pain last time, they asked him on day one, what his pain goal was for this go around and he said “0” and for the most part that’s what he experienced.Yeah! Something to keep in mind when setting goals…aim high, or in this case, low.

The two biggies he is contending with are:

1) Being tired – not sure there is much avoiding this symptom considering what’s being pumped into his body.  Yet, we are headed to the Oncologist in town today for the Neulasta shot to boost his white blood counts which should help. We predict that by the end of the weekend, he will be feeling much stronger and more of himself…maybe (hopefully) even up for some company.

2) Being water-logged – just looking at his thighs, you would think he should be playing in the Super Bowl. :) Ha-ha. Okay maybe that’s a stretch, but goodness they sure flood him with a lot of fluid to protect his other organs (kidneys, bladder etc.). It isn’t an issue (more of an issue to be dehydrated) just uncomfortable as you can imagine.  For perspective, he said he lost 8-9 pounds over night which didn’t make for a lot of sleep, but certainly does make him feel more balanced.

Otherwise, he is amazingly good and we’ll take it!

With a rather easy, breazy lemon squeezy drive, we arrived safely back home last yesterday afternoon. It felt so good to walk in to a fresh, clean house.  Thanks Joan for all your hard work to make that happen. From clean sheets to clean bathrooms…what a big gift. She even brought mints for the pillows, but then thinking the dogs might get them first, left them with a note to us on the counter instead. Smart thinking Joan. Combine that with a meal from Linda and a few items for the refrig from Jenny we were ready to rock and roll or maybe better said, relax and get settled.

Thanks also to the big hearts and helpful hands of those who cared for our boys. Thanks Dena and Jason for creating a home away from home for Ruben and for all the extra things you did to make him feel loved and special. He loved the honey sticks and apparently they did just the trick for his cough. You are such the good mom.  We also really enjoyed and appreciated the taco extravaganza before we left along with the thoughtful bag of goodies you put together for our trip to Indy.  We (or maybe I should say mostly I) gobbled them up. And thanks to the Doherty’s who brought Ruben to Indy which made for a fun outing to the NFL Experience for him and a day brightener for us to see ya all. And of course, Nick enjoyed his scrumptious meal at the Bieggers and the ready to go freezer meal from Lisa.

The pups were glad to see us but doing well from Nick and Joan’s care and all the walks. They will have a little adjustment, however, getting back to the regular routine and my being a bit more stingy with the treats.

Looking ahead…the next treatment is set for February 17th back in Indy.  While I can’t say we look forward to it, with all the optimistic news about his progress to date, it’s more just something we know we need to do to get ‘er done. From now until then, we will make the time of we have together at home with prayers for Mark’s renewed strength and recovery.

Love and thanks to all,


Highlights from Chemo Series Two

Three down and two to go in this Chemo Series. So far – so good. 

“Game highlights” include…

* Great Xray (pre -vs- post chemo view of his lungs-truly remarkable as previously posted)

* Daily strolls in the scenic hallways of Wing 3 of the Simon Cancer Center which last time Mark was too weak to do or appreciate.

* Meeting up with Ruben and the Doherty/Jardin gang (John, Cole and Kyle) who came to town for the NFL Experience. Thanks John for taking the boys – and glad to see you survived the experience. Hope you make it back to the Super Bowl to see your Patriots play.



* A visit from Ruben always makes Mark smile!!





* A “chat and cabernet” visit from Shari – my friend of 45 years who probably knows more about me than I know about myself.

* Text-by-text updates and color commentary from Dena on Ruben’s bball game. Thanks Kings for hosting him and for the song text from Crossroads.

* Nick’s buzzer beater win – the only two points he scored that game, but oh were the clutch.

* Lots of posts from you all to keep us smiling and inspired

Thanks for hanging with us.  Wishing you all a most fabulous week ahead.

Love, Becky and Mark

Chemo is Working

HI Y’All,

Here’s the headline – chemo is working!! As Mark shared in response to a post earlier today, in his chest X-Ray yesterday, we were able to look at a side by side comparison of his lungs pre and post chemo. The difference is unbelievable. Even the doc, who has seen it all, was surprised and a bit “shocked” at the degree of improvement. So much so, that various staff members came in to get a peek of the picture I took to see first-hand what the buzz was all about.

It was the first time that we had seen his scans versus reading about them in a report. While we hope that we aren’t the “Doubting Thomas” types, seeing it did bring to light in vivid detail what bad shape he had been in heading into his first treatment and gave us an even deeper appreciation for God leading us here for treatment. Not sure that the blog is the best place for this type of picture (again probably TMI) but take our word for it that the chemo is doing its job…as are all your collective prayers and positive energy. Thank you. Thank you.

No doubt that this remains a long and winding road, but we are oh so grateful to be heading in the right direction.  In Mark’s words, it makes going through all this “$^*&^%” — worth it.”

As I write this now, Mark is getting the second series of  “$^*&^%” but rest assured he has a smile on his face.

Grateful to you all,

Becky and Mark

If it weren’t for the chemo, this could actually be nice

HI All,

We made it to Indy without a hitch. Mark ended up doing most of the driving. I started out, but between the lack of light and wet conditions, we decided that Mark’s anxiety (and mine) were better served with him in front of the wheel. Somethings never change. :)

Our appointment was at 9 and by 10:00…they had done blood work, we met with Dr. Hanna, Mark got a new CAT scan and we were admitted to his room. We are back on the 3rd floor, welcomed by warm hearts and friendly faces…and a duck! (see the picture of the cloth  folded on the tray in his room as we arrived). This unexpected, funny and sweet detail made us smile.  

We are all settled and Mark is awaiting the set up for his first round of chemo mid to late afternoon. We had to laugh that IF wasn’t for the fact he was getting chemo, this would almost feel like a mini vacation..with free wi-fi, room service, valet parking, movies on demand etc. Everything has been very smooth and hectic free. Hope this continues as Mark jumps into Round II.


We are in good spirits and full of HOPE. (this pic was part of mosaic mural here). Thanks for all the “spirit boosts” and for all the help and support back home to keep things running smoothly. We miss you and wish you all a great weekend.

Keep ya posted…and if you have a moment, please do the same.

Love, Beck

P.S.   I had a wrap and couscous for lunch and Mark had a salad and veggie pizza and now he is actually taking a nap. Just sharing. (see Tony Barlow’s post about Corn Flakes if you are curious why I shared something so ordinary).

Ready for Round 2

I remember coming home from Indianapolis thinking I’ll never be ready to go back and tackle the 2nd round in two weeks.  Well, it’s here and while I can’t say that it’s been easy, I have learned that I can handle it, and this time I feel so much stronger and more confident heading in. Helping me get to this place is all the unbelievable support I have received along the way. Thanks to all who make up this strong circle of support. Here are just a few examples, and I know there are many, many more…

  • Everyone in Dr. Kirlin’s group who has worked to get my blood at the right levels to support effective therapy
  • The every other day angels who bring food to our door. Through these delicious (and nutritious) meals, I have been able to pack on the pounds.
  • Becky’s group of friends who made her birthday extra special when I couldn’t (she thanked me for indirectly making this one of her best birthday’s ever).
  • The group we affectionately call “Team Ruben” who have helped out in so many ways from taking care of him while we are away, to generous surprise trips and outings, to carpools (where we conveniently we don’t do any driving) and so much more
  • People at the ready, willing to help with anything we need from suitcase delivery to plumbing problems to attire for a 3rd grade costume at school
  • My mom and friends who help take care of the puppies while we are gone
  • All the people who have taken the time to post on the blog which always brightens my day, and  sometimes, the long nights…please keep ‘em coming
  • Those who have sent cards and notes and most generous gift cards that help us in a BIG way
  • To my boys who just “hang” with me and keep me company
  • To deliveries of all sorts…from movies and funny t-shirts that make me smile (Lisa B. made the one I am wearing in this photo) to the inspiring  cd’s that motivate and remind me to stay strong
  • For all those providing their professional help to ease our burden
  • To the people I have talked with who have been through this before (either themselves or a family member) who offer such helpful wisdom and insight
  • For all those praying for my health and recovery
  • Lastly, to my wife who has been my everything

Yes, the first couple of weeks have been tough.  I’ve haven’t experienced any major setbacks (infections or significant pain) but I have had my share of side effects; extreme fatigue, no appetite; metal tastes in my mouth, tingling in my fingers and toes, and, as of yesterday, a fully bald head.  But like the saying goes, cancer can’t take away from me what is really important.  I was fortunate to spend this last Sunday afternoon with all the boys and Becky.  I even had enough energy to play a family game. Don’t ask who won, that’s beside the point, and this time at least, I have a good excuse.

Man, I can’t wait to get back to “normal”, so bring on round 2 of the chemo.  Keep ya posted.


P.S. “That’s How I Roll” relates to the fact that when in the hospital I am literally hooked up to a an IV bag 24/7 and it moves with me wherever I go…not to mention the metaphorical “rolling with the punches” and dealing with challenges as they come.

That's How I Roll...

A “Hemoglobin Energy” Drink

Hi all:

My first post on the blog. First of all, I want to thank everyone for all the love and support you have shown to me.  I am totally blown away.  Also, thanks for all the posts on the blog. You have no idea how much it means to me.  I get such a boost reading all the inspirational, spiritual, chatty, and plain funny posts, especially in the middle of the night.  There is no way to feel alone surrounded by all this support. Thanks to all of you.

I made it through my first blood transfusion today.  The goal is to get my red blood cell count up to where it should be, and, hopefully, get more energy.  Can’t say I am ready to run around the block yet, but hope to get stronger each day.  Funny thing was that I was at least 25 years younger than the 6 others who were getting transfusions with me.  Just a funny scene. The woman next to me is celebrating her 89th birthday tomorrow.  I think my fellow transfusees thought I was from the future when I pulled out my laptop.

Looking forward to a good weekend and a great week. Wish for you the same.

Love to all, Mark




A Post of All Sorts

In response to the question “how’s Mark?” – the answer is SO much better. He has more energy and is feeling stronger…able to watch a movie, take a shower, enjoy a delicious meal (and some junk food too) and feel even somewhat close to his normal self.

That’s why were a bit surprised to find out today at the regular Oncologist visit that his red blood count was low, a bit too low for their liking. This is the beauty and ugly side of chemo. It does its damage on the bad stuff, but as we all know, it depletes the good stuff right along with it. Particularly it can wreak havoc with one’s white and red blood counts.  That is why right after chemo he got a shot to boost up his white blood cells, and these are rebounding very nicely. However, there is not a great pick-me-up shot for the red blood cells, and apparently they need a boost too. So with that said, Mark will be heading in for a blood transfusion tomorrow morning as an outpatient at the local hospital. The docs in Indy had said he might need this (even during his initial stay) so I guess it just hit him a bit later. While not terribly excited about going, we are optimistic and feel that getting it done will only make him stronger and healthier as he heads into his second round of treatment. My thought is that if he feels this good with a hemoglobin level of 7…imagine what a 12 will feel like!  In general is okay with it and grateful that he hasn’t had to deal with many of the other side effects and related issues like nausea, pain, infections and the like. All in all, a blood transfusion sounds surprisingly good.  As a side, note, the oncologist did say that his blood viscosity is just where it needs to be. So we will take what we can get.

On a separate note, I also want to say THANK YOU to all who happened to know or find it out it was my birthday today and in doing so helped to make it one of the most special ever. It was filled with so many happy surprises and unexpected delights that truly warmed my heart. Thoughtful cards, emails, calls, Facebook posts, texts, chats, a drop in visit and Burger King drive through pick up, gorgeous flowers, chocolate covered strawberries, pecan torte, peanut butter delights and other heavenly sweets and treats of all kinds, a huge balloon, Dewey’s pizza (with and without cheese), a beautiful candle, a gift certificate from the neighborhood chics for a yoga escape, and several bottles of vino (apparently you know me well)…and the cherry on top…the opportunity to spend time with all my boys, What more could a girl ask for?  Thanks to all for a birthday that I will always remember.


P.S. Thanks for all the support to my “post and rant” yesterday and for your offers to help us manage the stress. The stress is a “real” part of this experience, but having you all as a safety net made all the difference in the world. We are lucky and we know it.

Honoring Georgia…

This post is to share our sympathy and prayers for our sister-in-law, Lisa Schraffenberger and all the members of her family as they mourn the loss of her mother Georgia Larbes.

Lisa is the ultimate care taker of our family, the person at the ready for anything and everything you need…whenever you need it. She has spent much of her time and energy these past three years caring for her mother as they deal with the pain and anguish of Alzheimer’s. As any of you affected by this disease know, it’s not been an easy road, but Lisa has been a solid source of comfort and support for both her mother and for her father throughout it all. And always, with a smile on her face and in her heart. She is a good role model for me in that way.

We wanted to take a moment to share our prayers and sympathies for Lisa, Keith and everyone in their family. May God’s grace hold you and may all the memories that you share bring you comfort. Georgia had a feisty spirit and may her light shine on and on and on.

Love Beck and Mark

Keeping it Real…

Well, so much for “nothing.” Washer guy came out today and said the washer is broken. Wasted a $137 and now have to go through the process of buying and gettting a new one installed…along with the added expense at a time when we are trying to conserve. On a normal day, I would be frustrated but manage it fine….probably via several discussions with Mark about where to go and which one to get. Today, it feels like a heavy burden and I could care less about options and models etc. I just want a washer that works. The reason I am sharing this, is to keep things real. Well, truly real might include some salty language so I opted to edit myself on that note. Nevertheless…it feels like a crappy time or at least a crappy morning.

On a broader scale as we journey on,  I am finding that things are generally sinking in and we are able to  “absorb and deal” with our new reality. Yet for me at least…every once in awhile something (even which in this moment of frustration I can see is relatively small) puts me over the edge. Iin a matter of moments,  I go from a “5” to a “10+” on the stress scale. In these moments, there isn’t much any one can do or say (doesn’t feel like an inspirational quote type moment) just the mere fact of sharing of it is helpful to me. I expect you all have had a few moments like this yourself and can relate.

Note, this will hopefully be my last post on appliances or needed repairs of any kind. I know there are more significant issues on our plate…so keep your prayers going in that direction. Rest assured that the prayers are working. Mark had a good night’s sleep and has been eating, eating and eating some more. His blood level consistency is also good so it may be the last of shots from Nurse Becky for which he is very thankful.

Thanks for listening. Beck

P.S. Since I wrote this morning, I made my way to HH Gregg and ordered a new washer which is due to be installed tomorrow. Life goes on. Back down to a 6 on the stress scale and will be even better once I make lunch for Mark and take my pups for a walk.


Hi All,

Just wanted to check in with you and say hello. No new “news” to report which I consider to be a good thing. In a way “no news” feels like a funny topic to blog about. It’s like that Seinfeld episode…it’s a show about “nothing.” I have to say in a weird sort of way that “nothing” seems pretty good these days.

Well, I guess there have been a few things. Mark’s car battery went out and we had to call Triple A to fix it. In about an hour it was taken care of and we were back in action. If only Mark could get better that fast! Thank God I renewed our service. This is the second time we’ve  used it in that past 6 weeks. The last time was when we sat down to our Thanksgiving meal while visiting my parents in South Bend and Ruben announced (whispered in my ear) that he locked the keys in the car.  Ha-ha that made for some interesting dinner conversation. Now our washer is on the fritz. The good news is that I am pretty caught up on loads, although Neil was none to happy when he came home with his weekly bag of dirty laundry in hand all ready to go. Sears is coming out Wednesday to repair. Apparently the holey socks epidemic has spread to our autos and major appliances.  Nevertheless, it feels like nothing all to important.

You probably aren’t all that interested in our household repair status, and care more about how Mark is doing. I guess by the fact that I didn’t lead with that “story” you know it’s pretty good. :) He is eating. He is sleeping…and all other bodily functions are in working condition. Combine that with no pain and no fevers and life is good, or as good as it gets for now.

We are enjoying all the meals. In fact, Nick claims he has “never ate so well before.” Hmmm not sure what to say about that other than thanks for the wonderful meals and gift cards galore. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts..and our stomachs.

Until the next time, we wish you a “nothing” kind of special day.

Love, Becky and Mark

p.s. Thanks also to all my Ruben helpers this weekend which made “nothing possible.” From Brent spending the entire day hanging, helping with homework and making Ruben laugh (he loves your impressions)…to all the play dates with Tanner (thanks Dee) and Blake (thanks Erin and Craig) and Gordy (thanks Soraya, especially with Gordon being out of town).  This made for a great 3 day weekend all around.

Happy Weekend Wishes (or whatever day it is)

Happy Weekend Wishes,

It’s funny before I started writing I had to actually “think” about what day it is as the days have blended so much together the distinction between weekend and weekday is all but vanished. I suppose that happens either when you are on vacation or when you/family member are sick. Next time, we will opt for the vacation!  And by the likes of the posts (Greg’s trip intensive and Marilyn’s reach out to the ladies) there will be plenty of wonderful opportunities ahead.

Yet, for the time, being on this cold, cold day, our first goal will be to stay warm and cozy. We hope the same for you.  In this spirit, Mark is getting the much needed rest that he needs.  Now, our focus is food …to eat as much as he wants of anything that he wants.  If you didn’t know the context, I bet that would sound pretty good to a lot of folks.  On his current list of favorites are waffles, protein bars, brownies and Burger King fries and TenderCrisp sandwich – hold the mayo. So while he is thin, he is trying hard knowing that the “fries are gonna help him fight” this thing.

As we think about the long haul, it can feel overwhelming and scary. As we see our minds going down that path, we find that we need to recalibrate and ask ourselves and each other about “how we are doing” this very moment and usually we find that it’s okay…or even sometimes pretty good.

Throughout it all, we do feel God’s presence in all kinds of ways…from the kind nurses and docs,… to the food deliveries and special gifts of all kinds… to the blog posts from close friends as well as those who have only met us a few times…to Jonesy’s snuggles and  Roxy’s playful spirit…to an operating toilet and new toilet seat cover… to the unexpected phone call from someone who just got “cleared” from his ordeal with Stage 4 Lymphoma…to hanging with the boys on the couch watching The Middle and Modern Family…to opening the mail and NOT finding a bill…to getting help and support with our tax prep…to the funny stories and pictures that makes us laugh… to prayers that come to us via blog, email, video and even texts on the road…to all the offers to do ANYTHING which we know we can count on ANYTIME.That’s where God is.

Thanks! Have a most fantastic weekend…or whatever day it is.: )