The Final Chapter

The Final Chapter
Photo by Mike Labrum / Unsplash

Written by Jerry Margolis

Marc was a man committed to his love of communicating, particularly writing, and always finishing what he started.  Whether that be his published mystery novella or completing the latest season of whatever he was streaming.  Sadly, he never had a chance to finish the blog he started to share his battle with cancer. It is with a heavy heart that I will do my best to match his charm and wit telling his final chapter dealing with the deadly brain cancer that ultimately took his life.

Marc posted his last blog on January 19th, sharing that the diagnosis in Singapore was not good and he and Francisca would be relocating to New York City seeking treatment at Memorial Sloan Kettering.  The flight to New York was not easy as Marc was very uncomfortable from the chemotherapy/immunotherapy he received in Singapore, and the fact that the cancer had spread to his spine.  Despite the difficulty traveling and the many twists and turns in his diagnosis and treatment, there was hope and optimism that the experts at MSK and being close to family and friends would bring good news.  Things appeared to be coming together in New York upon their arrival.  Stacey Kennedy and the PMI team were uber helpful arranging a corporate apartment, a MSK specialist was identified, and an appointment at MSK was scheduled.  Additionally, Marc’s family from South Carolina settled into NYC to support him and Francisca. This included his brother Kevin, sister-in-law Christina, and of course his parents, Sara and Keene.

It was January 25th when things unfortunately started to go downhill.  That night, Marc experienced a tremendous amount of pain and was rushed to NY Presbyterian Hospital in the middle of the night.  It turned out he had a seizure, and they would need to operate to release the swelling in his brain. They also took a second sample, hoping to nail down a diagnosis so that proper treatment could begin with MSK.  After a few days in the hospital recovering from the surgery, Marc and Francisca returned to the corporate apartment and waited for their first appointment at MSK.

Unfortunately, on February 3rd just a few hours before the appointment could take place, Marc was back in the NY Presbyterian ER as he experienced confusion, was in severe pain, unable to sleep, not stable on his feet, and his wound from the second surgery was causing problems as it wasn’t healing.  During his stays in hospitals, Marc’s physical and mental state altered dramatically.  There were many times Marc was completely cognizant, able to talk and laugh with visitors. At other times, the disease took all his energy, and he spent large amounts of time sleeping.  Fortunately, while he knew he was in the hospital, he was largely unaware of his illness and its severity.

Marc stayed at NY Presbyterian for over a week recovering until he was strong enough to be moved to MSK.  Finally on Feb 9th he was admitted to MSK and began radiation treatment on the cancer in his spine.  While the outlook was uncertain, there was reason for optimism as Marc had an appointment in New Jersey with the proton radiation center to get the much-needed treatment on his brain.  On Feb 17th, he and Francisca went via ambulatory taxi to NJ to determine if Marc was a candidate for this groundbreaking new treatment.  The appointment went well, and treatment was scheduled to start the next week.  Sadly, things quickly began to unravel.  The next day, the doctors at MSK determined that Marc’s tumor was continuing to grow and there was now a second brain tumor which was causing bleeding in the brain.  They also concluded that proton radiation at this point would only make him worse. The doctors determined there was nothing they could do to treat his cancer, and they would do their best to manage his pain and make him comfortable. Shockingly, they said he would survive no more than two weeks. For Francisca, his family and friends, this news was both devastating and surreal.  How could someone so full of life and love so quickly see their life and dreams be altered by illness?  The prognosis was correct, as sadly, Marc passed on February 24th around 3:30 am. The cancer that Marc had was very rare and difficult to diagnose. Even at the writing of this blog, none of the doctors could determine what it is and how to treat it other than through radiation. This includes the doctors and two pathologists in Singapore, the pathology teams at NY Presbyterian and Memorial Sloan Kettering.

The love for Marc and Francisca was evident during their time in New York.  Marc’s family, friends and relatives came to support them during this trying time.  Norma and Jeff Drew came from Switzerland and spent over a week doing everything from visiting Marc, feeding Francisca, getting Marc his much loved lunch from Chipotle, bringing him a cannoli which is one of his favorite things, and pushing a wheelchair loaded with belongings 10 blocks down the streets of Manhattan.  Marc’s cousins Jeff, Andy and his wife Christine, Leigh, and Amy came to visit him in the hospital along with friends including Jim from Michigan, and Ellie and Tony who came from Virginia.  Maxine Margolis came from Florida and spent a week comforting Marc in the hospital, staying with Francisca in the apartment, and helping her through the most difficult days, including being with her when she received the final call from the hospital.  Francisca’s brother Adrian was delayed due to Covid, but came from California with his family, and was also there when Marc passed. Even his long-time friend Rebecca came to visit Marc from England. Ex-Altria colleague Kent Zerangue runs an organization for cancer patients and their families and sent homemade goodies and vegetable soup. Stacey Kennedy and the PMI team helped expedite and navigate insurance and logistics challenges and came through with not just one corporate apartment but a second one closer to the hospitals.   Additionally, Philip Morris’ Doctor, Steve Schneider, and Norma’s friend from NY Presbyterian, Doctor Steven Kaplan, helped facilitate and accelerate care and appointments. Friends from Richmond helped Francisca after Marc’s passing. This included Ellie and Julia who helped Francisca with the many things that needed to be taken care of after someone passes away. Veronique who lives in New York, is also there for Francisca while she is dealing with Marc's situation. Countless others sent flowers, prayers, messages, and calls to offer support to both Marc and Francisca.

Throughout his life, Marc was always a great and constant storyteller.  His blog brought us along with him on this unexpected, unwelcome and heart-breaking journey.  We all hoped and prayed for a different outcome and are still in shock and disbelief by his sudden passing.  

Marc was cremated and Francisca will bring his ashes back with her to Indonesia.  Per his request, there was not a memorial service.  We can, however, honor Marc’s life by supporting the charities that were important to him. This includes the American Red Cross where he volunteered, ACLU, and the ASPCA.   In my many conversations with Marc during this tragic experience, he thought and talked mostly about his worry and concern for others, mostly Francisca.  She is managing through the grief with support from friends and families.

I always thought Marc was a “maven”.  He was always seeking, obtaining, and then sharing his insights and knowledge on everything from technology, TV shows, reading magazines to financial services.  He was super fanatical about so many unique life experiences and passions.  He always had the latest iPhone and everything else that Apple produced.  My personal Wise, LINE2, Apple One apps along with watching All of Mankind were a few of the most recent things Marc converted me to using. I am sure all of you reading this have some gadget, podcast or TV show that was influenced by Marc.  He also had a unique approach to fashion!  I will always picture Marc wearing tan khaki pants and a plaid shirt unless he was wearing a Camel Active polo!  His strong views on everything from politics to kettle bells to food to the madness of living in Switzerland made every conversation, every text and every email memorable.  Always with a smile and a witty comment, I can honestly say I loved Marc, and he was man enough to tell me he loved me too.  We will all miss him, will never forget him, or the impact he had on our lives.  If there is one lesson we can take from his illness and passing, it’s to be grateful for the things we have in our lives as it can all be quickly taken away.

As a footnote, if you haven’t read Marc’s novella, you can find out how to access it at

The Champion Deceiver: A Murderous Ode to Agatha Christie (