A note from Liz, and Mark’s obituary

A note from Liz:

Mark passed away on Monday, August 5th. We are heartbroken but also relieved that he is in a better place with no sickness or pain. Thank you to all of you who have reached out to us recently with kind thoughts, cards, texts, meals, and visits. We feel your love and prayers.


We wanted to share Mark’s obituary, which is posted in full below:

Mark Notess

Mark Harrington Notess died August 5, 2019, at his home in Knoxville, Tennessee, at the age of 61. Born in East Aurora, New York, on August 12, 1957, he began early to develop his lifelong enjoyment of the outdoors and of books. As a high school student in Blacksburg, Virginia, he gave his life to Christ and met his high school sweetheart, Liz, with whom he celebrated 41 years of marriage this year.

Mark earned a bachelor’s degree in English and master’s degrees in education and computer science from Virginia Tech. His work focused on human-computer interaction and user experience design, making software programs easier to use for countless people. A music lover, he was especially proud of his work on the Variations software at Indiana University, which allowed students to listen to a vast digital archive of music. While at IU, he also earned a doctoral degree in educational technology.

His love of learning was also present in many other areas of his life. He spent many hours reading aloud to his children and grandchildren and served as a volunteer adult Sunday school teacher, work that was rooted in his deep knowledge of Scripture.

Mark prided himself on his unusual interests and taste in food. He loved the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, arts-and-crafts furniture, photography, cooking, and celebrating Christmas. His handmade Christmas treats including fudge, marinated mushrooms, and fruitcake (yes, fruitcake!) had a small but devoted following.

Mark and Liz moved to Knoxville, Tennessee, in 2015, to be closer to grandchildren, and they enjoyed spending time in the Smoky Mountains. That winter, Mark received a diagnosis of stage IV prostate cancer. While undergoing cancer treatment, he focused on traveling to spend time with family. Especially treasured were the “bucket list” trips that he and Liz took, including a tour of England, a cruise on the Danube River, and a Carribean cruise through the Panama Canal.

He also spent much of his time writing in ways that supported others facing challenging cancer diagnoses. At the time of his death, he had recently completed a book manuscript about his experiences. His pointed and witty sense of humor buoyed him and those around him – including his cancer support group, who nicknamed him “Sunshine.” Mark and Liz’s Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Gibbie and Digory, were also a great source of comfort and snuggles on difficult days.

Preceded in death by his father and stepfather, he is survived by his wife, Liz Notess; mother, Shirley Neupert; stepmother, Margie Notess; brothers Peter Notess and Greg Notess; children Hannah Notess and Jonathan Hiskes, Brian and Adrienne Notess, and Ben and Shelby Notess; and grandchildren Asher Notess, Silas Notess, Luke Notess, Samuel Hiskes, and Theodore Hiskes.

A memorial service for Mark will be held Saturday, August 24, 2019, at 11 a.m.  at Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church, 9132 Kingston Pike, Knoxville, TN 37923. In lieu of flowers, gifts may be made to Cedar Springs Presybterian Church or the Cancer Support Community of East Tennessee.


I now doubt my ability to walk two miles or even one. My liver failed, I had no white blood cells, I had a fever and a bad case of thrush, preventing me from eating or drinking. My oncologist sent me to the hospital, where I remained six nights.

I went home on hospice care. Much more could be said, both good and bad, about the past month, but I am tired. I have little energy for replies to email, for instance, and even less energy for visitors.

I don’t know how long I’ve got–a few weeks? Days? I use a walker, with assistance. To get around the house.

The book should still be published, though it may take a while.

Thank you all for your thoughts, prayers, meals, and the many other ways you have loved us. God’s blessings on you all.

Liver vs. mega-steroids smackdown

This morning’s liver panel showed large increases in my liver enzymes, and my bilirubin shot from 4.1 last week to 12.7 today. That was considered dangerous enough to bring me back in late this afternoon to load me up with a high dose of intravenous steroids (Methylprednisolone 500 mg). I go back tomorrow for another infusion. Monday, I’ll have another liver panel and meet with my oncologist.

Warrior language

I’ve written before about the metaphors we use to describe our relationship to cancer. This recent LA Times op-ed also makes a good argument for questioning the way we talk about having cancer and why.

When she became dizzy and passed out in the hospital, she’d wanted to ask her oncologist if she was dying, but she couldn’t bring herself to project anything other than a positive outlook. “I’m not a quitter,” she told me, “but I think fighting this is killing me.”

Read the full article:

The good that can come when we stop seeing cancer as a battle to win or lose, by Sunita Puri