A sign on the door reads, “Limit Visits to Five Minutes.” It was put up by a loving wife, concerned over the energy her husband is expending meeting friends, family and fans. On this day, we’ll get more than 5 minutes, because he has a lot to say.
Mark Shannon has fought, what conservative Oklahomans would call, the good fight. Regardless of if you agree with his politics, you can’t deny his passion for the cause. For the past four years, his afternoon radio talk show has grown in popularity as he takes on every topic from city hall to Washington politics. Though, his latest fight is one he may not win.
Mark was first diagnosed with cancer in 2000. He fought it twice, each time pushing the disease back into remission. This time, the Leukemia may win. “I’m fighting, but I feel beat,” Shannon says from his hospital bed. He admits to feeling worn out, and who could blame him with everything he’s been through. “I don’t feel like I’m quitting. I feel like I’m doing what God wants me to do and in the end He will decide when it’s time for me to go.”
It’s that faith that speaks volumes. As our interview goes on, you can see his strength fade. Yet, when he speaks of God and the relationship that has carried him through the all this, a renewed vibrancy shines in the face of the man known for his passion and energy on the radio. Mark says his survival so far has been due to a simple plan. “Just put one foot in front of the other and leave to the results up to God and see what He’s got planned for me.”
As we walked through Mark’s past, sharing stories of radio stations, programs and personalities a nurse interrupts the discussion. She say’s she’ll come back. The pause gives my photographer a chance to ask the question I hadn’t found a way to bring up yet, “Are you scared?” No, not scared, “Nervous…what I’m nervous about is pain,” Mark says in a calm voice. He goes on to describe how doctors have told him he shouldn’t feel much pain. “The deal is I’ll probably wear myself down to where I don’t have enough oxygen left, and they’ll put me on something to relax me and I’ll probably just go to sleep.”
Mark’s biggest concern is for his wife. He hates the burden his illness has been for her. She’s not in the room to hear him dote on her. She’s patiently waiting outside, giving Mark time to talk. He jokes, “I think she’ll find a little bit of a break to be away from me…I tend to wear people out.” Though you can tell she’s not yet ready to let him go. In a few minutes she’ll send in the hospital’s PR staff to tell us it’s time to wrap things up. She’s concerned about the growing line of well-wishers and her husband’s now noticeable lack of energy.
Acceptance comes in many forms. Mark Shannon’s acceptance comes with an acknowledgment of the final things he has left to plan. “I want to have a really good funeral. I know that sounds funny, but I want it to be a really joyous celebration.” He talks of plans for music and testimony. Some old-fashioned “teaching and preaching,” as he calls it, something to let his friends and family know death is not the end. “I’m looking forward to Heaven. I don’t how it all works out, but I’m looking forward to the freedom of not having to worry about stuff anymore and the good life so to speak.” He’s given a lot of thought to the subject of Heaven. Don’t expect him to behind a microphone inside the pearly gates. Mark quips, “I’ve added up my rewards and I’ll probably end up working at the 7-11.” It’s a job he’ll be glad to do.