Mark Best, 38, went to the doctor in January with simple lower back pain. The news was anything but simple. Best, a process engineer at International Paper, learned that malignant tumors had formed all over his body.
The young father and husband discovered he suffered from a non-Hodgkins cancer called follicular lymphoma. Chemotherapy treatments were harsh and steady, but Mark, his wife Karin -- a school teacher and coach at Coastal Middle School -- and their one-year-old son Bennett keep up the battle.
A battle that is never-ending.
“Although the treatments were rigorous, Mark was a trooper,” says Brittany Robinson, a close family friend who has undergone treatment for a similar cancer and is organizing fundraising efforts for Mark.
“Mark would be tired around the treatments, once every three weeks, but he continued to work and only missed the six days when he had chemotherapy.”
Mark’s doctor in Savannah is Dr. Negra at the Nancy and J.C. Lewis Cancer Center of St. Joseph’s/Candler. All of his treatments have been in Savannah, until recently.
Mark was in remission until this past June, but doctors feared his cancer would continue to return if he did not get a stem cell transplant, where Mark was his own donor. This type of transplant might help his body generate more healthy blood cells and improve the chances of his body fighting cancer cells.
So Mark underwent the unique stem cell transplant in Atlanta after Labor Day at the Blood & Marrow Transplant Group (BMTG) at Northside Hospital. The procedure carried risks, but can also prolong Mark’s remission.
Karin’s dad is retired and has stayed in Savannah to take care of young Bennett during the day during his chemotherapy treatments. He will return to Atlanta with the Best family to continue to help.
During recovery, Mark will be on disability. But his wife Karin will be on leave without pay. The fundraising goal is about $10,000.
“Mark will eventually be able to return to work,” says Robinson. “However, it’s expected that he will be in Atlanta for 2-3 months and then have a period of recovery in Savannah.”
The procedure will totally eliminate Mark’s immune system, so he will have to be careful of infections, says Robinson. Mark could have a prolonged remission if treatment is successful.
“It’s uncertain whether this treatment will be a “cure,” Robinson says. “However, we’re very hopeful that this will extend his remission.”
If the cancer does return, then Mark will have to undergo an allogenic bone marrow transplant. This procedure requires marrow from another donor and carries high risks.
According to the American Cancer Association (ACA), there will be about 58,870 new cases of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in America in 2006. About 18,840 people will die of this disease. Mark’s type of lymphoma, follicular lymphoma, is quite rare for a younger adult. Only 14 percent of non-lymphoma cancers are this type. And it is relatively slow spreading. Treatments include chemotherapy, other radiation and biological treatments, stem cell transplants and marrow transplant from matching donors.
The Precinct Deli, at 1514 Bull Street, is teaming up with family and friends to support Mark’s family in any way possible. The owner of the Precinct Deli, Bob Curley is a friend of Mark and Karin and wanted to do something to help.
Aside from various fundraisers, every Monday is “Mark Monday” at the deli. A portion of proceeds generated on Mondays goes directly to the family. The deli is between 31st and 32nd Streets next to the precinct.
On Thursday, Oct. 12, the deli will hold a fundraising dinner for Mark. For $10, you can have chicken parmesan pasta, salad and dessert from 5:30- 7 p.m. The offer applies to dine in or dine out. All money will go to Mark and his family. In order to RSVP for the dinner or fundraiser, mail checks to the Mark Best Fund c/o Brittany Robinson 214 Druid Road, Savannah Ga. 31410.
The Savannah Area Georgia Tech Club is also sponsoring a blood and donor drive on Saturday, Oct. 14, at the American Red Cross donor Center on Tibet Avenue from 9-1. The center is right next to Carraba’s.
“I know how important it is to have the support of family and friends during this time,” says Brittany Robinson. “I want to do everything possible for them.” ç
To make a donation or for more information on ongoing fundraisers, contact Brittany Robinson at 898-9307.