Commmunity Champion Spotlight
Mark's Wedding Gift
Mark's Wedding Gift
Where are they now?
Mark and his bride Sherlyn chose an unusual favor for their wedding last November.
“A candle or a dish would just wind up in a closet,” says Mark. “We made a donation to Friends of Karen instead because it really means something to my family.”
At 18, Mark was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a malignant bone cancer. He left his freshman year at New York University to begin treatment. The hospital introduced Mark’s family to Friends of Karen. Social worker Rhonda Ryan began visiting him in the hospital. She got to know his three sisters and two brothers, who still lived at home with their parents, Frank and Lina. Lina herself was just completing chemotherapy for breast cancer.
“Those were trying times,” Mark recalls. “We needed assistance with the medical bills, and all the going back and forth to the hospital. My dad got vouchers for gas, for lunch. It was a huge relief financially.”
Following surgery and 17 rounds of chemotherapy, Mark returned to NYU in 2001. In 2003, however, he relapsed with Ewing’s Sarcoma in a different location. Nine more rounds of chemo. Thirty radiation treatments. More surgery.
“Again my dad reached out to Friends of Karen, and again they assisted us,” says Mark. “Just having Rhonda back was hugely helpful.”
Mark completed treatment in 2004 and graduated from NYU in 2005 with a degree in economics and computer applications. He soon landed his dream job at a life insurance company. He has some long-term side effects from his treatment, but counts his blessings. And then there is romance.
It began three years ago on Halloween. Mark, dressed as a firefighter, met Sherlyn, dressed as border patrol. He took her phone number, but didn’t call right away, so Sherlyn tracked him down through MySpace. “That’s the reason I had to marry her,” Mark jokes.
They created a pamphlet about Friends of Karen for their wedding: “We would like to honor all those who have won the battle and those who can no longer be with us today. With all of our blessings, it is only fit that we help others live longer, healthier lives. All our love, Sherlyn and Mark.”