By: Jill Fox
After his life turned upside down following his diagnosis with liver and lung cancer, Parkland resident Mark Barrett insists that his life with his family of four still appears fairly normal.
Mark, 51, a former member of the Marine Corps and business owner is married to Veronica, a busy full-time mom. Their fifth-grade daughter attends Park Trails Elementary and takes dance, while their eighth-grade son goes to Westglades and plays travel baseball. Although they seem normal on the outside, the world has changed after Mark’s diagnosis.
“We got rocked with some bad news in September, and now we’re just fighting with that and going through a difficult time,” said Mark.
He believed he was having digestion issues when the stomach cramps began, however, through testing, it ultimately led to his cancer diagnosis. After a colonoscopy provided dismal results, he followed it up with an MRI which showed a tumor. Unfortunately, it spread to his liver and lungs as well.
Financially, between chemotherapy, high deductibles and expensive premiums, the family is struggling. Three years ago, Mark moved his company, Blue Ocean Tackle Inc., specializing in marine and commercial fishing equipment to Parkland. He says that on his good days, he has to go to work, since he’s self-employed and the sole breadwinner of the family. But on bad days, he can’t even get out of bed.
“My son has played baseball since he was five, and my husband has been at every single game,” said Veronica. “Now, for him not to see my son play has been pretty hard.”
Mark’s son is on the Parkland Pokers travel baseball team, and it was this team who started a GoFundMe page asking for support for the Barrett family.
Veronica feels that for her, Parkland has been their family. She said that Dance Theater has also been amazing. A group of the dancers’ moms put together a box of gift cards for the family so that they can try to keep their normal routines for the kids.
“Dance Theater told us that they didn’t want us to pay anything until my husband gets better. The owner said that he wanted my daughter to keep dancing and doing her normal activities,” said Veronica.
Even though their families live in Mexico and Canada, so many people are making them feel like they’re not alone. Veronica feels that God is helping them in so many ways, including finding out that Mark’s oncologist lives just a few doors down from them in their community of Watercrest.
There is good news: She said that Mark’s chemotherapy is working. Having just had his fourth treatment, Mark will have two more treatments before he is rescanned, and hopefully will become a candidate for liver surgery, which is his only option at this point.
Mark revealed that in a weird way, this experience has been a blessing to him. He’s met so many people who want to support him: from Catholics to a rabbi who raised money for Mark. He feels that it doesn’t matter what race or what religion you are, it’s just people coming together out of love. That’s the message that Mark wants people to know: that with every devastating kind of news, there’s always hope.
Jill Fox is an Emmy Award-winning writer and producer. She is currently a Senior Account Director at Lon Haber & Co., a leading full-service public relations firm. Fox worked at NBC Miami for eight years after graduating from the University of Miami. She lives in Parkland with her husband, Brian and two children.