Name: Mark Herkert
Hometown: Seattle, WA
When I was diagnosed 6 years ago I thought a lot about dying. I was 46, 1/2 way thru my expected life span when suddenly I was told I had an average of 5 years to live, a gut punch that left me dazed. The faraway horizon of death came sharply into focus and I obsessed about it, ruminating on my own funeral - the playlist, was it too creepy to record a video and play it during the service?, mandatory name tags, that sort of thing. Knowing your time is limited gives you motivation to plan these things.
Being a father of a 6 and 8 year old I also spent a lot of time worrying that I wouldn’t be there when they needed me, and depressed I would miss milestones like graduation and marriage. The thought of not being able to provide for and protect them was devastating.
It took about a year of treatment and 2 stem cell transplants to gain some confidence in my battle with myeloma, and gradually I began to shift my thinking, looking at my cancer as more of a chronic condition. Still, I had no illusions about beating myeloma, and I realized I had to maximize my time. I began prioritizing my bucket list, and thinking about my legacy. What memories would I leave my family with? What would people remember about me? What would be my mark on the world? Big picture stuff.
Since then I have some amazing experiences with family and friends, and dare say that having cancer has enhanced my life in ways I could not have predicted. I have learned to surf, play guitar, and became a triathlete and open water swimmer. I have let down my guard when at my most vulnerable, and relied on those around me for help - humbling experiences that have made me more well-rounded.
Choosing to share my journey and be a part of the solution has given me purpose and direction. Knowing that I’m contributing to research, through various endurance events, is my way, besides taking chemo, of fighting cancer. Pushing myself physically has, I believe, kept my cancer relatively in check (tho I have never been in remission). As a result I am, ironically, in the best shape of my life. If you would have told me I would be running 1/2 and full marathons and olympic distance triathlons in the days after my transplants, when my legs were wobblier than a new born deer, I would have laughed in your face. It never ceases to amaze me how resilient the human body is, the depths from which it can recover and even thrive. Amazing stuff.
I am grateful to be climbing Kilimanjaro as my latest fundraiser, as it keeps me motivated and contributing to the solution. I am excited to see where my efforts will lead me afterwards on this unpredictable journey. Onwards!