A lasting legacy: Dying from cancer, Mark Weber writes book to teach his sons
Mark Weber has been busy lately. He's been the subject of much media attention, thanks to a self-published book he wrote called "Tell My Sons."
On Saturday, Jan. 19, the Rosemount resident will return to Hastings, his wife's and his grandparent's hometown, to present the book to Hastings residents. The book signing event will be held at the Pleasant Hill Library from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Jan. 19.
Weber, a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army, was preparing for a deployment to Afghanistan in July of 2010. He was to work for General David Petraeus - a personal request from the general. Two weeks later at a medical screening, he was diagnosed with stage IV cancer. It was just one week before his 39th birthday.
"It was very emotional," he said. "I was more in shock than anything else. I thought this is what happens to other people."
The cancer had spread extensively, also.
"It looked like a grenade had gone off inside me," he said.
The initial diagnosis was pancreatic cancer, he said. At stage IV, it was virtually a death sentence. Four weeks later, Weber's doctors revised the diagnosis to a different version of pancreatic cancer. It was more survivable, but he was still only given about six months to live. This past Thanksgiving, after a change in treatment providers, he found out it was gastrointestinal cancer.
The prognosis wasn't good, but Weber didn't give up. He tried a medicine that has allowed others with the same kind of cancer to live as long as 10 years. He's on his fourth chemo trial. He's been given four different "curtain calls" in the last two years.
Although Weber can't say for sure how long he has, he knows that his days are numbered.
"I am a mess, I am an absolute mess," he said.
He lives with an open abdominal wound since his surgery that won't heal. A catheter connects his liver to the rest of his body, since 75 percent of his liver has been destroyed by cancer, and he doesn't qualify for a transplant.
Weber has risen above his situation. After his diagnosis, he went back to work full-time for the Army and continued to work until last June. What's earning him major recognition is his book, "Tell My Sons."
The book, which Weber self-published, has earned praise from "Tuesdays with Maurie" author Mitch Albom, former Vice President Walter Mondale, former governor Tim Pawlenty, NFL quarterback John Elway, four U.S. Chiefs of Defense and more. Actor and comedian Robin Williams wrote the foreword. The book has already sold 4,000 copies since it came out in early December. The book got on Amazon.com's top 10 list, and quickly sold out there, even.
Weber has been keeping a journal for more than 20 years, he said. He always kept it with the intent of sharing it - and his life experiences - with his grandchildren someday. But his diagnosis meant that he wasn't likely to be around that long. When he passed the six-month survival estimate, he figured he should start organizing the journal. He started pulling out stories and arranging them into a book. The stories are of the good, the bad, the ugly and the bizarre, he said.
"It's kind of a breathtaking day the day that you realize as a young boy or girl that your parents aren't perfect," he said. "So I wanted to give my side of the conversation for that day, knowing that I might not be there."
The stories highlight some of the life lessons he's learned over the years - words of wisdom he wants to pass on to his three sons. His oldest son was 14 when he was diagnosed, and the younger, twins, were 9.
"The overall message that I have throughout the book is, life is unfair," he said. "Now what are you going to do about it."
Initially, it was just going to be a book for his children. But an Army chaplain convinced him to think on a bigger scale. Although his story is a painful one to share, he came to realize that, if by publishing his book he could inspire and help others with their own troubles, "that I should be willing to do it," he said.
"Tell My Sons" can be purchased online at www.tellmysons.com.