Valerie decided to have his body cremated. Half his ashes were scattered on Lake Burton. Valerie plans to disperse the rest in a memorial garden at their church. For now, they are on a shelf in his office, surrounded by pictures of the multimillion-dollar office complexes he had built around Atlanta.
Two months after Tom died, Valerie put a recording of his memorial service into a cassette player at home. The last two years had nearly destroyed her memories of their marriage. The old stories helped. She replayed the tape every few days.
She has begun training to become a Stephen Minister, a church counselor like the woman who had helped her through Tom's final months.
The FDA recently sent her a check for $6,896, part of the money the government seized from BioMark. The company remains under investigation.
One afternoon in December, Valerie returned home to find a message on her answering machine from BioMark.
It was for Tom.
Valerie didn't know it, but the company had set up an office in London and found doctors in Tijuana and Rotterdam, the Netherlands, to start administering their injections again. It set up a Swiss bank account to receive payments from patients.
The caller said she would phone back but never did.
A NEW SEARCH FOR HOPE
The patients arrive every few weeks at the Corporativo Oncologico in Tijuana — Americans slumped in wheelchairs, hobbling on crutches or carried by loved ones toward the stem cells inside.
The clinic's main business is providing low-cost radiation treatments. But recently Dr. Armando Garcia, the head of the clinic, began administering stem cells for BioMark.
He stepped into the waiting room with an orange-and-white bag labeled "biohazard." He reached into the bag and pulled out a frosted vial.
"These cells are very good," he said.
Marsha Weeks arrived from Anacortes, Wash., in September, hoping to ease her bouts of pain from multiple sclerosis. Living on Social Security, the 29-year-old single mother maxed out her credit cards to pay for a single $10,000 treatment.
A few weeks later, 25-year-old Richard Welsh leaned into his crutches and ascended the ramp to the clinic. He prayed the cells could repair his spinal cord, crushed in a car accident five years earlier.
His hometown, Klemme, Iowa, had rallied behind him. A dentist donated electric toothbrushes for a fundraiser. The local Wal-Mart chipped in $750.
Greg Evans journeyed to Tijuana from Robesonia, Pa., hoping to save his only child. Eleven-year-old David was withering from Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a fatal degenerative disease.
"We're staking our lives on this working," Evans said.
SELLING SCIENTIFIC PROMISE