Mark grew up in California and started smoking as a teenager to fit in with friends. At 19, he joined the Air Force, where he continued to smoke. He used cigarettes or smokeless tobacco, and sometimes both, through two tours of duty in the Persian Gulf. Mark smoked until 2009, when he developed rectal cancer at age 42. Mark was no longer in harm’s way on active military duty. But he faced the fight of his life against a cancer that is linked to smoking.
“Everything just—it came to a grinding halt,” said Mark. “I realized, ‘I have cancer. I could die!’” Treatments lasted for months, including radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery. Mark needed an ostomy bag taped to a hole in his abdomen to collect waste for another 6 months. Mark hopes his story will inspire others to quit as soon as possible, especially young people. “There’s nothing good that comes from smoking.”