BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - This Mardi Gras season is extremely meaningful for the newly formed Calypso Carnival Krewe. That's because one man from the Coast is pouring everything he has into building a float with the friends and family he loves all while fighting the toughest battle of his life.
Getting a float ready for a parade is always a big job, but it's an even bigger challenge for 57-year-old Mark Reece from Ocean Springs.
"I've been able to work a fair amount because I've been off chemo for five weeks. But I start chemo today again for three days."
Mark is doing all this work on the float while fighting cancer. He was diagnosed in June of last year.
"It was a total surprise. I was having trouble swallowing, and I had it checked out and found out it was cancer."
He was diagnosed at MD Anderson in Houston with an aggressive cancer called High Grade Neuroendocrine Tumor. Doctors told Mark and his wife Jammie, he might only have twelve months to live. Jammie says they're using all available resources to fight the cancer.
"M.D. Anderson is probably the best cancer hospital. They're always coming up with new treatments so we are hopeful," she said.
Mark had to retire from his 26-year-old heating and air business soon after his diagnosis to focus on his treatment. But, he says he was determined to help build this float with his friends.
"I've always been one [to believe] that you have to deal with what you have, and do what you have to do. And make the best of the situation," Reece said.
And making the best of it he is. Mark's friends say he works tirelessly to help make this float a reality, and he never complains. They're making him honorary float captain. No one is more delighted than Jammie.
"I couldn't be more proud of him. Mark is an inspiration to all of us. It's amazing how he's handled the chemo and the job out here helping the Krewe."
Mark hopes to ride in at least one of their two parades on the finished float depending on how he feels after starting a new chemotherapy regimen recently.
"You never know what the side effects will be, but I'm hoping and praying it won't be too bad."
But his main goal is to complete the construction, and Jammie says anything else is a bonus.
"If we can get the float going that's a major thing for him; building the float. And we're hopeful he can ride in the parade. That would be icing on the cake, but God has his plans."
Mark Reece exemplifies what it means to be South Mississippi Strong.
Be sure to look for the Calypso Carnival float this Sunday in the North Bay Parade in D'Iberville and again on Tuesday in the GCCA Parade in Biloxi.