Uphill Battle

For: Marcus Rietema
Organizer: Jodi Roth
Uphill Battle (Marcus Rietema )
of $54,000 goal
34% Complete
Raised by 164 donors
This fundraiser is closed. Thank you for your support!

The Story

The Uphill Battle
After years of competitive skateboarding, cycling and skiing, Marcus is engaging in a new competition. This time he isn’t battling the road, other boarders, or the clock, but rather he’s battling cancer. Marcus was diagnosed in July with non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. He sought out alternative medicine in addition to western doctors to get the best care possible. Marcus began chemotherapy September 27.Unfortunately like most families these days, the Rietema Becker household is faced with the challenge of affording the best medical care possible. As a close friend/ past roommate/ sister to Kim and Marcus, I feel strongly that it takes not just courage and strength to beat cancer these days, but also the right doctors and resources. As close friends and family, it’s important for us to show Kim, Marcus and Sebastien how important their family is to us. Please make a contribution. 

The Tragic News: A Note From Marcus 
On July 11thI went to see a doctor for what I thought was a hernia that had popped up a few weeks before. I came away with the most shocking news imaginable. The doctor diagnosed me with lymphoma or cancer of thelymphatic system. From that day forward life has seemed like one endless test. Blood tests, needle biopsy, CT scan, PET CT scan, echocardiogram, transophageal echocardiogram, bone marrow biopsy and ultimately a surgery to remove the lymph node in my abdomen/groin that I thought was a hernia. The doctor says that I've probably had cancer for some time and that the severe case of shingles that I endured nearly two years ago was likely a result of the disease.

Now, we wait to find out definitively what type of cancer I have. There are more than 20 sub types of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. Some are very curable and others are not. Once we know what type I have, we can look at the treatment options. In the meantime, I'm not sitting idle. From the day of the initial diagnosis, I've vowed to get myself into the best shape of my life. I figure that I need to go into this battle as strong as possible. I've logged more than 700 miles on my bike, ridden a metric century, competed in a mountain bike race and lost 15 lbs.

Due to the generosity and time of our extended family in the Bay Area, I'm working out in the gym twice a week, seeing acupuncturists, a chiropractor, and even a meditative healer multiple times a week. I've seen both Eastern and Western medicine doctors so we're attacking the disease with not only a systemic approach, but also a whole body one. Each day I'm taking a small mountain of herbs and doing additional alternative therapies.

So far I've been very fortunate. I haven't displayed any symptoms. All of the cycling, gym workouts and diet changes have actually left me feeling better than I have in years. Kim has been the most supportive, amazing wife any man could ever dream of. Without her by my side, I would be completely lost. Sebastien senses that something is wrong but we're doing our best to keep things as normal as possible for him. I have led the most amazing life anyone could ever dream. My fight of this disease is for them, so I can be here for many years to come as their loving husband and father. 

For those of you who already know about my condition, thank you for all of your kindness, love and generosity. For those hearing about it for the first time, many of you have touched my life and hold a special place in my heart. I'm sure this news comes as a big shock. Your empathy is greatly appreciated but please no sympathy. If you are interested in lending a helping hand, a fundraising effort has now been organized by our dear friend Jodi to help with our mounting medical bills. We'll keep you updated as we learn more. Please respect that this whole situation is taking up a lot of time and little is left to spend on facebook. My spare time is reserved for my family so I apologize in advance if I don't return a message or email. I intend to keep enjoying each and every day of my amazing life to the fullest!

All my best,

A Note From His Loving Wife

Breathing Into Sorrow

Mind/Body September 30, 2013 by Kim Becker

I arrive to teach classes to crowds of dedicated Pilates students each week.  I believe they have arrived on the mat committed to exercise, learn, move, breathe, center and balance. No one knows what each of us brings into the room or what we leave behind. Sometimes we share more openly and other moments we put our smiles on as if they are an article of clothing we place upon our faces. We hide our inner dialogue, mask our thoughts and try to bring our awareness to our bodies.

Meanwhile, I am wearing my mask.  I am hiding all that is tearing me up inside. A few months ago, the doctor told us that my husband had a terminal cancer called Mantle Cell Lymphoma. In this initial diagnosis we were told that with treatment he only had a 2% chance of survival beyond a year.  The news numbed me physically, spiritually and mentally. It was as if my emotions had ceased to exist. As I stepped into the class I had to tell myself, I have arrived. I am present, here and now to guide this group. All that life has presented to me I must offer into my class.

I taught with mindfulness, focused on breath, my awareness on the center, alignment and balance. This practice is a meditation for the students and in teaching I am also in a state of meditation. Do they know this? I find my own center by guiding others.

My secret to my community of students is this: you are like a rock in my life.

Sometimes, life unfolds on the mat and as a community, life is shared; masks are removed.  Sometimes we see one another's expressions of hurt, sadness, fear, anger, love or compassion. Sometimes we wear a cloak, disguising ourselves. I find that in this practice of Inner Core Chi the inner workings of life unfold and the energy within my mind, body and spirit shift.

Since the first diagnosis, life has unfolded in many ways. Marcus and I had to discuss what life would be like in the future if I were to become a single mother and Sebastien were to be raised without his Papa. We had to consider whether I still wanted to have another child, potentially raising two alone. We decided that life goes on and we could not stop living even with the tragic news. We decided to move forward by banking Marcus' sperm so that Sebastien could have a sibling and our family grow to what we had dreamed of.

But after further medical tests we received a new diagnosis of Non-Hodgkins Follicular B-cell Lymphoma, which has a statistically better prognosis. The numbness ceased and my tears were overwhelming. Marcus came out openly about his diagnosis, announcing it to his friends. Now it was my turn. I stepped into work at the Jewish Community Center and told my extended family one by one. I felt the news needed to come from me, that others needed to hear my voice and my struggles. It was time for me to ask for help. I realized that as we moved forward I could not do this alone and I needed the support from those who could somehow give unconditionally. Our family needed the strength of our community, family, friends and extended family.

Asking for help does not come easy for me. But  I have asked others to help me make decisions, to support me, to make me take a walk outdoors. I have also asked others to support me and empathize but not give sympathy. I needed a sense of normalacy in my work. The sympathy seems to just sadden me and I need to see the beauty this life event has bittersweetly brought into our lives. It has brought us closer, made us be realistic and helped bridge our community of friends and family closer in this time. For myself, exercise never ceases; it keeps me in sync with the ebbs and flow of life, makes me feel alive, puts me in nature.

I need to see the beauty this life event has bittersweetly brought into our lives.

The hardest part has been cooking. Marcus and I used to love to cook together and his zest for creating in the kitchen has taken a hiatus. I carry on by staying focused on balance making sure that I exercise daily, and each week I meet a friend for lunch, call my best friend, remain connected with my clients both personally and professionally. I go to work even when I feel like I would rather cry in bed, cuddle with my son, and talk with my husband. I have also taken time to have massages and acupuncture to relieve stress. Is there really this much time? Somehow, there is!

As I continue to teach, I have vaguely shared to my students that over the next six months I may be absent from teaching time to time so that they do not worry but know that I am taking care of myself and my family. My secret to my community of students is this:you are like a rock in my life. To teach you brings me ultimate presence; it offers me a sense of balance. I am not afraid to be vulnerable, to take off my mask and reveal my excitement, joy, fears or tears.

So when I see you tomorrow, or the next day, or next week,  remember that I am human, that you are human. Now my mask is removed, be true and be who you are: my rock.

Seeking your Financial Support
Since Marcus was diagnosed with cancer he has sought out alternative therapies to support him prior to receiving chemotherapy. The supplements alone have exceeded $700 per week and have fortunately built up his strength and immune system to be able to handle the chemotherapy. Additionally, as he and his family searched to find the best treatment, they have spent over $20,000 out of pocket so far. Marcus, wife is currently fighting with the insurance carrier who has denied all medical claims to date exceeding over $100,000. Once this is resolved they expect to incur the maximum deductible costs of $15,000 for 2013. Luckily they were able to find a more comprehensive plan for 2014 with a maximum out of pocket deductible of $12,500. Once the insurance company has fulfilled their obligations, Marcus and Kim will still face medical bills exceeding $47,500 by the end of 2014.  In addition, Marcus will be receiving alternative therapies that are not covered by insurance once he has completed his chemotherapy.  To cover their medical expenses and these alternative therapies, they are hoping to raise a total of $54,000.  We hope to ease their stress of this life-changing event with the support of their extended famlly and friends around the globe.

Fundraiser Updates

Posted on February 10, 2014

Posted on February 10, 2014

To Live & Let Go

Marcus received the news last Thursday that he is in remission. Now the two of us are processing this amazing news. How do you transition from the first incorrect diagnosis when a doctor looks you in the eye to tell both you and your husband he is inevitably going to die in a year to another moment where he tells you both the cancer is in remission post treatment and your life has been extended? Without a doubt the past 6 months have strained our emotional bodies beyond words. We have both tried to live in the present maintaining a sense of hope for this news and we are so grateful. I am personally trying to connect with Marcus, to find a way to bring him into the present to connect with me again as his wife and soul partner. To believe and know in both of us that the uphill battle is over and see ourselves and our family's future together. I realize that without the support of my extended families at work, my mother in law and all of the tasks to keep me focused that I would have felt like I would lose my mind. I have hardly shed a tear through this as if I have been a pillar, afraid that if I let go I would lose it. Now with a sigh of relief, my body is letting go, the tears are flowing and my emotional body needs healing. From my heart to root I am sore having embodied holding on to the emotion, trying to be strong and keep me and us as a family together sanely. The tasks and busy work in fighting the medical bills, handling our lives and being a caregiver for Marcus and our little Sebastien have kept me focused. I did not even take a single day off of work to process, handle the dilemnas of the health care system or simply to take some time to breathe. Now, I am melting down trying to move deeper into the pregnancy for the two amazing little blessings that are growing inside. I am pausing to nap, to journal, to cuddle to be still and heal. I have to thank Sebastien and the twins for being there for me to not lose sight of the future and of life. Three bright stars in our lives to remind us about the spectrum of life and new beginnings. Thank you to my JCCSF staff Laura and Linda for putting together an amazing fundraiser event hosted this weekend. It truly came from the heart. Thank you to Angelica, Lea, Eula Janeen, Penny who came in to take the time to support the event and to all the clients and vendors who donated. We made another dent in the bills. Although we are only half way there and somehow the uphill battle seems to have ended. If you know someone out there that Marcus has influenced or inspired in some way that still has not donated please spread the word. We are going to work to fund as much as we can and then let it go. At the insurmountable numbers what else can you do, but let go. With gratitude~

Posted on January 14, 2014

Posted on January 14, 2014

As Marcus and I face the end of his chemo treatment we can truly see the ebbs and flows of life. We were challenged beyond words in 2013. I stood by his side advocating in finding every treatment available that would help him physically, emotionally and spiritually. The resources and connections from friends and professionals in the Bay Area has been phenomenal and we are fortunate to live here. Now after the last round of treatment the side effects begin however, we have blossomed in the past few month. Marcus and I both had a wonderful session with our therapist who taught us both the importance of rest and being present. She reminded us that we only get in trouble in our heads when we live in the past or live in the future. When we are present there is only here and now. I am reminded that this is our Dharma.

We are movers and shakers who are always in the midst of another adventure. Time has slowed and we have enjoyed the moments of being present, reconnecting as humans. We have also struggled with this slowness, each side effect and each shortcoming presented. We are witnessing the power of the universe to present signs of life and know that Marcus is beating this. One of my fellow teachers stated that the universe only presents to you what you can handle. I humbly thank the universe for making us stronger as a unit, for presenting clearly what is important in life so we grow together moving through each ebb and flow of life to move with ease even through what feels weighted down.

Thank you to everyone for lifting the weigh off of our shoulders. Every like, reply and support on fb cheering Marcus along. Your strength shows the interconnectedness of all things. Many of you have been dealing with your own struggles, some the same and I can see how Marcus has evolved in wanting to give more, love more and be more selfless.

We also thank those of you who have so generously given financially in each increment to chip away at our medical costs. With love from our family!

Posted on December 21, 2013

Posted on December 21, 2013

Hello Everybody,

I just finished my fourth cycle of chemo, which was the most difficult so far.  After the good news from the Pet CT scan just prior to my last chemo infusion on November 27th, I was filled with optimism going into the round.  My parents were both in town to spend Thanksgiving with Kim, Sebastien and I.  On Thanksgiving morning, Body Kinetics threw us a fundraiser at their three clubs in Novato, San Rafael and Mill Valley.  I participated in a spin class and Kim enjoyed yoga.  Afterward Sebastien and I had fun kicking soccer balls and shooting baskets.  The fundraiser was a big success and raised $4,300 for our relief fund.  A big THANK You goes out to Michael Jenkins and the entire Body Kinetics crew for putting this together!  Afterward we went home and I prepared a turkey for Thanksgiving.  It turned out amazing and Sebastien was really excited by the whole experience.  Our good friends Eric Tokle and Cat Young joined our family for the big feast.  It was a really memorable day! 

On Sunday, I started feeling worse as I typically do five days after chemo, but this time seemed different.  I woke up on Monday morning congested, coughing, sneezing and aching all over.  By the afternoon it had gone into my lungs and I was running a low-grade fever.  It appeared I had come down with the flu right when I would be suffering the worst chemo side effects.  By the afternoon I was worse and could hardly get out of bed.  That night and the next day were probably the worst I’ve felt in my entire life.  I was left nauseated, delirious and drifting in and out of consciousness.  The next night I experienced severe sleep sweats soaking through five t-shirts and pillows.  I finally resorted to sleeping on towels…  The good thing was that I seemed to sweat out the worst of it and was feeling considerably better by the next morning.  Unfortunately, I had given the flu to Kim and Sebastien at this point.

I ended up working from home all week as my strength would allow and Kim ended up staying home from work the entire week as well.  The three of us all felt miserable but the silver lining was that we got to spend the whole week together as a family.  With our busy work schedules, Kim and I usually only get to spend Saturdays together so we made the best of it.  By Sunday, I was finally feeling better and the week was topped off by our beloved 49ers beating our archrivals the Seahawks! 

It felt good to return to the office the following week.  All of Sebastien’s usual caretakers are Sonoma State students who’ve returned home for the holidays.  Krista, who was the first person to watch Sebastien when he was an infant, returned to our lives to pick up the slack during the holiday period.  After a brief period of them getting to know each other again, they were like old pals and have been great together.  Kim and I are both very grateful.

I’ve found that my moods are greatly affected through my chemo cycles.  The first five days I simply feel off with a low grade headache, altered balance, loss of taste and numbness in my face and hands.  I’m taking a steroid (Prednisone) during that time and it makes easily agitated.  Days six through ten, my body aches all over and my throat hurts.  The agitation continues and I find myself having a very short fuse.  This bubbled over during the last cycle with the addition of the flu, and I found myself becoming mean spirited at times.  Fortunately, during the third week, I feel quite normal both physically and mentally.  Kim and I went and saw a psychologist near the end of the cycle, which felt good.  I have a lot of fears regarding my cancer and that it will come back in the next few years.  It was good to speak with a professional who gave me a few useful tools to deal with my fears and hopefully reduce my agitation during the tough weeks.

Over the past few months, a number of friends have come over to help do more work on our little room addition where I stay during the week following my chemo treatments.  A big thank you goes out to my dad, Richard Mikulich, Eric Tokle, Don Johnson, John Bonfilio, Webb, Chris Kiker, Tim, Cat Young, Dave Depto, Shawn Crosen, Byron Sagastune, Simon Millerand his friend whose name I sadly can’t remember.  Last weekend my Brother In Law Mark Gomm came and put in a huge effort finishing the drywall, roofing and cleaning up our backyard that has been in construction zone shambles since August.  This was the third time that Mark has come over and spent multiple days working on the project!  It really lifted the spirits of Kim and I to see our little backyard oasis return. 

This past week I met former pro cyclist Steven Cozza who is putting together a kids cycling event to raise money for children with serious illnesses and for local schools.  I’ve decided to get involved as a way of giving back for all that I’ve received during this whole cancer experience. I’m pretty excited about it!  You can learn more at www.stevencozzaraceforkids.org.

Yesterday I went in for my fifth chemo infusion.  It lasted six hours.  After the rough time I experienced over the last three weeks, it was hard to bring myself to do it again, but I just kept telling myself that after this there would only be one more.  My sixth and final chemo infusion is scheduled for Thursday, January 9th.  Between now and then I’m looking forward to Christmas and the New Year.  I’ll write another update in early January.  Thank you everyone for your continued support.  It has made a tremendously positive impact on our lives. 

Happy Holidays to you all!


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