Mark Grethel has been going non-stop for weeks.
He went tubing at Perfect North, traveled to Spring Training in Arizona and visited his daughter in San Francisco. He spent a night on the sidelines with University of Cincinnati's basketball team and on Thursday got a tour of the White House.
This is not normal for Mark, but nothing has been normal since late last year. That’s when he was told he has a rare, untreatably form of colon cancer. His doctor estimated he had between six and 12 months left on Earth.
Grethel was staggered by the news. He had always been athletic; he followed a wellness program religiously. He wasn't ready.
He also wasn’t going to sit around and mope about it.
“I think that’s a decision you make every day regardless of what your circumstances are,” Mark told me. “You either get up and do something or you don’t.”
He got up.
His recent travels were all part of a personal bucket list. Sports have been a big part of his life since his childhood in Loveland: He’s a former University of Cincinnati pitcher and a life-long fan of the Bearcats and Reds.
He also spent some time in the Army, where he remembers a sergeant telling him: “Act like you’ve got a purpose in life.”
Mark has partnered with the V Foundation, an organization founded by the late Jim Valvano, who won a national championship at North Carolina State and gave an impassioned ESPY speech about the death sentence that his own cancer had dealt him.
Everyone knew he was dying and how hard he was fighting, but he told the audience: “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.”
His words are meaningful these days for Mark.
“How much time I have I don’t know, but I want to make the most of it," he said. "And I want to make people aware that there’s still a lot of cancers that don’t have a cure.”
He likes how the V Foundation operates. One hundred percent of the money raised is funneled back into cancer research.
Next Tuesday, Mark is going to check off another line of his bucket list by throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at Great American Ball Park. He’d like to have a cheering section that night.
Five dollars of each ticket purchased in his name will go to the V Foundation. The tickets can be purchased online at Facebook, LinkedIn and GoFundMe or by clicking this link.
It’s a great cause. It should also be a good game — the Reds are playing the Cubs.
Mark is still hoping for a miracle, but he’s also very realistic. That’s why he’s doing so many things in a hurry and why he’s trying to spread the mission of the V Foundation.
“Just like Jimmy V, if it doesn’t help me, as far as what I can do to raise funds and awareness for cancer, hopefully it will help the next person,” he said.